Posts Tagged ‘GOP’

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The Tea Party: Fight the Future – Starring Michele Bachmann and Paul Ryan

01.28.11

If you missed President Obama’s 2011 State of the Union speech on Tuesday, then you probably also didn’t get a chance to see the GOP and Tea Party’s rebuttals, presented by Rep. Paul Ryan (R) of Wisconsin and Rep. Michele Bachman (R) of Minnesota.

Don’t worry: you can just rent it on DVD at your nearest Blockbuster (if those are still around in your neighborhood). Check out the cover:

Jokes, people. Jokes.

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House Votes to Repeal Affordable Care Act: Just Symbolic or Signal of Something More?

01.20.11

The GOP-led House of Representatives voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act yesterday, 245-189.

Most likely this is just to placate the base who the rank-and-file riled up heavily in the campaigns last fall with their anti-Obamacare talking points, since a similar measure looks to die in the Senate, which is still led by Democrats. And even were that not the case, President Obama would still have veto power.

While it’s no surprise really that the votes went this way, it still seems like a waste of time, energy, and money. Yet another case of politics over governance – something which can be defended when running for office, or even as the minority group in all branches of government, perhaps. But not for those in power.

Because what good is passing a bill through one branch of government when you know that it has virtually no chance of making it through the other?

At some point, it just comes down to doing something. If the cost-constraining measures don’t work well, instead of just repealing it and going back to the status quo which everyone agreed wasn’t sustainable either, propose a new method. Offer an alternative instead of just going backward. Do something rather than just ensuring that we’ve all done nothing.

Hell, why not grab Rep. Paul Ryan’s health care reform proposal off the shelf and vote on that? That’d be creating an alternative rather than just voting to not do anything.

The notion of sweeping legislation seems to be off the table for Republicans. A big issue that came out of last year’s health care reform was just how huge it was and how even some Congresspeople hadn’t read the whole thing. It makes sense then that the GOP would go after specific reforms one at a time, even if that brings its own issues along, too.

Republicans say there’s no timeline for their “replace” legislation, but if they’re serious, they’ll have to start advancing specific proposals by the summer.

The likeliest prospect Republicans have for success in the short term lies in taking on the 1099 tax reporting requirement for businesses. It’s been widely criticized as a paperwork nightmare. Even the White House wants to scrap the provision, and the Treasury Department has already taken action to limit its scope. But the two political parties disagree on how to go about undoing the requirement, so an early resolution seems unlikely. Lawmakers have time; it doesn’t take effect until next year.

My emphasis. Both parties agree that this specific item in the law should be changed. This is a great place to start: a point of reference on which both can say, “Yeah, that bit doesn’t work.” At least they don’t have to argue that something is broken while the other side says it’s fine. Which means they can just get right to problem solving: “Let’s figure out a way to fix it.” That’s working together. That’s compromise. That’s using different ideas of how things should work to make the law better. Granted that’s no easy task either, whatsoever; but, it’s far more productive than just taking a symbolic vote on total repeal of everything – even the stuff that arguably works.

But Rep. Joe Barton (R) of Texas still sees value and importance in the general repeal.

“Unless we repeal the law in the House, we don’t have any credibility to do anything. This establishes Republicans’ credibility to negotiate and deal with the Senate and the president.”

I disagree. The GOP could establish credibility just as well – if not even better to a large swath of Americans – by using their majority to provide solutions to those issues they have with the law rather than just scrapping it altogether and starting over again. That merely showcases their voting majority at the expense of their credibility to negotiate – especially when the repeal seems to be falling mainly down party lines.

Given the polls that show that the overall law tends to show up as unfavorable to the majority of Americans while the individual aspects of the law tend to be favorable, the real work needs to be done on improving the parts to make the whole better. Hopefully the House will still seek to achieve these goals even if the repeal dies in the Senate as expected. Then we all win: the GOP saves face by doing what they could to satisfy those campaign promises; and we all get an improved health care system.

Photo courtesy of wallyg’s Flickr Photostream.

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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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Pointless TV Survey Offers Only More Polarization in Current Political Climate

11.13.10

Much has been said already about the recently released Experian Simmons survey that shows which TV shows are most popular according to the political affiliation of their audiences.

If you know me, you know I don’t put much stock in surveys or polls.  Blogs and articles aplenty have done their own parsing of the data to come to their own conclusions about the average psyches of Democrats versus Republicans.  I’m not going to continue it here — look at the chart and form your own opinions on what it all says.

To read into this, I think, is a colossal waste of time.  Almost more of a waste than actually bothering to survey people with these questions to begin with.

In fact, I find it extremely unhelpful in taming the absurd polarization in our current political climate.  Instead of focusing on our differences – yet again! – why not illuminate that middle section of the Venn diagram where Republicans and Democrats agree?

I know, I know: a tall order these days, but it’s not.  It just seems that way when all we do is point out where we appear to be vastly different species. And it will only continue if we indulge in actually giving topical, shallow, pointless crap like this honest discussion as if it means anything worthwhile.

Then again, it’s a survey about people’s television-watching habits — not exactly a medium which promotes deep thinking. Sigh.  I guess I’ll go back to watching Countdown with Mad Dexter Taking on 90210’s Private Brothers’ 30 Good Damages to Community Law – Episode 13: Friday Night Parks Breaking… Bad.

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So, Government Can Create Jobs?

11.03.10
Official seal of the United States Department ...
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According to Farheed Zakaria, the government can create jobs.

Not by directly setting up businesses or hiring people to work for the government, necessarily; rather, through investment in new technology.

CNN: Should they be government investments?

Zakaria: That’s what’s produced the semiconductor industry, it was government investment. That’s what created the internet. Al Gore may not have created the internet, but DARPA certainly did. That’s the Defense Department venture capital group. And GPS, the technology that’s now fueling the next internet revolution, the mobile revolution, that was also a U.S. Defense Department project. Those are now producing hundreds of billions of dollars for the private sector, all started by government funding.

Not all governmental spending is bad.  To make a blanket statement like that prevents you from adjusting to unique scenarios.  Life, and the global economy, don’t always adhere to one particular ideology.

And people inherently get this.  For all those screaming that they want government to stop spending, a strong percentage want them to do just that:

On spending priorities, 40 percent favored deficit-reduction, 35 percent “spending to create jobs,” and 19 percent cutting taxes.

Will be interesting to see what happens now with the divided Congress.  I, for one, am very curious.  I just hope that the American electorate won’t tolerate pure oppositionism as the sole GOP political theory for the next two years.  Americans deserve better than that.

I think the major issue is that people are out of work.  Decrease the unemployment rate, and the worries about the national spending will go down.  Not that we can ignore a $12+ billion dollar deficit; quite the opposite.  But, something needs to be done in the short term to get our consumer-based economy moving again.  Plus, we can reform the entitlements while at the same time investing in job growth.  We could, in theory, cut spending and also spend at the same time.

Because, like I said: not all spending is bad.

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3 Reasons Why the Tea Party Might Not Be a Game-Changing Movement

10.22.10

The Tea Party movement has been sweeping the nation for most of the past 18 months since President Obama took office. 

Much of the lead-up to the November 2nd election is not about if the Republicans will gain seats in Congress, but how many — and if they’ll actually win back both houses.  Much of that is owed to the Tea Partiers, who have won a number of GOP primaries.

Now, I’m not denying that there is a vocal segment of Americans who are fed up with… well, everything right now.  The economy, the unemployment, the spending, the taxes… the health care bill, the bailouts, TARP, Pelosi, Reid, Obama.

But is it nearly as big of a movement as our 24-hour news cycle would have us believe?

Here are a few reasons why I’m not so sure:

  1. The Tea Party haven’t (really) won anything yet. Sure, they’ve beaten out some incumbent Republicans in primaries.  But that’s about it.

  2. The Tea Partiers are more of a threat to the GOP than the Democrats. Tea Party candidates have knocked off some solid, traditional GOPers, most notably Rep. Mike Castle who lost the Delaware primary to Christine O’Donnell, who has a slim shot at defeating Chris Coons (D), while Castle (speculation) may have had a much better shot.  In that case, the Tea Party could end up being a liability to the GOP to re-take the Senate.

  3. No Tea Partiers are running for office as Democrats. It’s pretty clear that the country sways back and forth between Democrats and Republicans in waves.  Republicans dominated the 80s and the 00s while Bill Clinton handled the 90s.  In 2008, Americans voted heavily in favor of the Democrats, giving them majorities in both houses and the presidency.Now, I get that many of the issues on which the Tea Partiers are campaigning aren’t traditional Democratic Party stances: lower taxes and cutting entitlements. 

    But if the movement truly were all-encompassing the country, if it were truly capturing the sentiments of a strong majority of voters, it seems like it would’ve drifted into the Democratic Party even a little bit. It’s not like conservative-leaning Democrats don’t exist — I could see Sen. Ben Nelson running in accordance with some of the same ideas as other Tea Partiers.  There have been a number of Democrats who have voted in line with the Republicans on the major bills of the past nearly-two-years — why didn’t any Tea Party candidates emerge to challenge those seats?  Why are they only Republicans?

While much has been said about whether or not the Tea Party will defeat the Democrats in the general election in less than two weeks, it seems like not enough has been said about what this means for the Republican Party.  The Tea Party has gained a ton of traction due to the anti-incumbent mentality going around (natural when the economy is in the dumps — easy to blame those who are in charge even if they may not be the ones who are to blame); but that’s mainly hurt Republicans so far, not Democrats.

What the Tea Party represents are just Republicans in new clothes.  They’ve taken the anti-establishment, anti-elite tropes and run wild with them, riling up the base en route.  But they’re not new, as in converted from being Democrats.  And I think that’s why this is being misinterpreted.  Unless the Tea Party is convincing the moderates with their ideas to vote Republican this year — which I’m sure they have to some extent — they’re not going to be a game-changer at the polls.

Then again, it’s all speculation right now.  We’ll see in 11 days when the people vote.  I just wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not as revelatory as some think it will be.

Image courtesy of Fibonacci Blue’s Flickr Photostream.

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Obama’s ‘State Secrets’ a Bigger Threat to Our Free Society than Health Care Ever Will

09.26.10

Those in the Tea Parties like to rally against government getting too big and usually cite the bank bailouts, the stimulus package, and the health care reform as tell-tale signs that Obama and the Democrats are leading us into socialism.

It seems that the size of government, regardless of what those programs intend to do or why they were enacted in the first place, trumps the content of the policy.  It’s a simple numbers game for them.  In their mind, the government has peaked that curve that tips us from capitalism into socialism in their own view of the world and that’s that.

But what about the real issue of government getting too big: the deprivation of American civil liberties. And it’s already been happening.  First under Bush with the warrantless wiretapping and torture of terror suspects and now with Obama’s declared execution of an American citizen without any formal charges or due process:

Obama’s now asserting a power so radical — the right to kill American citizens and do so in total secrecy, beyond even the reach of the courts — that it’s “too harsh even for” one of the most far-right War on Terror cheerleading-lawyers in the nation.  But that power is certainly not “too harsh” for the kind-hearted Constitutional Scholar we elected as President, nor for his hordes of all-justifying supporters soon to place themselves to the right of David Rivkin as they explain why this is all perfectly justified.

What’s a more egregious act of a too-powerful government: making everyone have health insurance or the ability for the president to kill Americans with total impunity?  Why aren’t more people on all sides of the political divide beyond outraged at this?!

Is it because Anwar Awlaki – an American citizen – is an alleged (not even accused, because there haven’t been formal charges even) terrorist and traitor?  Unfortunately it seems that a large swath of Americans – including most, if not all, of the GOP – feel that once someone is deemed a terror suspect, they lose all human rights — as evidenced by the support of torture, rendition, and imprisonment for indefinite amounts of time without trial, even for American citizens.

How anyone could be in favor of smaller, less intrusive government yet support any of these powers that the President has given to the executive branch lacks any and all intellectual honesty.  It’s downright baffling and oxymoronic.

It must be problematic for those on the right because their fostered hatred for all things Islam has them believing that all Muslims are “the other,” they’re not truly American – even if they are U.S. citizens – which lets them be okay with this because, after all, it’s not like Obama is attempting to assassinate Bubba Joe Thompson from South Carolina or something.  It’s Anwar Awlaki from New Mexico.  With a name like that and the government saying that he’s a terrorist, well, that’s all the evidence I need!

Sigh.

It’s all good when the President is using those extra-constitutional powers to get the bad guys when the bad guys aren’t you.  But what happens when some radical in your social, ethnic, or religious group ends up doing something awful and all of a sudden you’re lumped in with them and targeted by the government?  What then?  By then it’ll be too far gone to stop.

This is why it’s so dangerous to conflate Islamic, murderous radicals with all Muslims, of which they constitute a tiny minority.  We get these knee-jerk reactions that toss away our civil liberties that we fought so hard to gain centuries ago, all under the guise of security and safety and protecting the American way of life.

Unfortunately, it seems that by having Obama – who was elected to clean up government and end these atrocious violations of the Constitution – continue and expand them, it may be too late to change already.

Photo courtesy of Sydney Lea Steele.