Posts Tagged ‘President 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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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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Suicides Claiming More American Troop Casualties than Combat in Afghanistan

01.27.11

Unsavory facts about the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars that don’t get the biggest press tend to make the entire military campaign more real, and thus more difficult to talk about in black and white terms of good vs. evil or us vs. them.

And this could be one of the more disturbing facts to come to light recently:

For the second year in a row, the U.S. military has lost more troops to suicide than it has to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We’re literally killing ourselves over this conflict.

We’ve been in combat in the Middle East for over nine years. Longer than we were involved in World War II. Longer than Vietnam. Longer than the Civil War. And per the Obama Administration’s current plan, we will still have troops in Afghanistan until 2014. That’s nearly 13 years. Unreal.

And these numbers don’t even tell the whole story either:

Figures reported by each of the services last week, for instance, include suicides by members of the Guard and Reserve who were on active duty at the time. The Army and the Navy also add up statistics for certain reservists who kill themselves when they are not on active duty.

But the Air Force and Marine Corps do not include any non-mobilized reservists in their posted numbers. What’s more, none of the services count suicides that occur among a class of reservists known as the Individual Ready Reserve, the more than 123,000 people who are not assigned to particular units.

I’m beyond done with these wars. I’m tired of our money going over to rebuild nations while our own schools and streets lose funding and continue to worsen. I’m sick of all the lives being lost and the countless more ruined by this seemingly endless debacle. The sooner we can come home, the better.

But regardless of when our troops get back, we must focus much more of our attention on the diagnosis and treatment of traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorders. We’re sending these men and women – boys and girls – overseas to kill or be killed. To see their friends blown up in front of their eyes. To be separated from their families for years over multiple tours. It takes its toll.

The bigger tragedy, though, is how clueless we still are about mental health.  We still think of depression as a weakness that you just need to suck up and get over it. That it’s all just “in your head,” as if it’s a bad mood or being bummed out. Same with TBIs: that because we don’t see any outward injuries, there must not be lasting effects inside the brain.

I’m not sure we have all the answers or cures for these ailments, but certainly we should be using all of the known ones to treat our troops, making sure that they know they have these resources available to them with no stigma or shame attached. It’s the least we can do.

We are still in the desert.

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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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Who Won in the Political Battle over Tax Cuts; and the Nature of Compromise

12.07.10

After scoping out the vast spectrum of reactions to the tax cut package that just passed through government, I’m left wondering where I stand on things.  I am still relatively new to this whole politics business and I find myself going “yeah, but” to both sides of the arguments (on the factual stuff, not the value-based ideology that gets tossed around a lot these days).

From what I can see, these are the major elements of the legislation:

  • 13 months of unemployment extension
  • 1 year of lower payroll taxes
  • EITC expansion
  • College tax credits
  • Estate tax reinstated but only affects the.25 percent of estates – those inheritances that are worth over $5 million
  • Tax rebates for the middle and lower classes

All of it adds up to about $700 billion added to the deficit.  For those keeping score at home, that’s roughly the size of the Recovery Act (aka, the stimulus).

So, where do I stand on this?

Good question.  Clearly there was compromise on the side of the Democrats in that they were against extending the tax cuts for the rich (who still would feel some of the effects of those proposed tax cuts, regardless, since all of their income under $250,000 would’ve continued to be taxed at the lower rate) and yet the tax cuts across the board is what got passed. Also the estate tax being reinstated but at a lower rate than before and only for a small amount of inheritances. Mark a couple in the win column for the GOP.

But there was compromise on the other side, too.  13 months of unemployment extension is a big deal, especially considering that it was paid for by the deficit, which is precisely what the Republicans did not want.  Throw in the college tax credit and the rebates to the middle- and lower-classes, and those are some wins for Democrats.

For those truly worried about the debt, well, it seems like those are the ones without any real silver lining other than perhaps the Bush-era tax cuts were extended temporarily instead of permanently, so there’s still a chance that the deficit-funded cuts could expire in two years.

There will be Democrats angry about this.  There will be Republicans angry about this.  It seems like from what I’ve read, the Democrats feel the most shafted.  Part of me agrees with that group; but, then part of me wonders: what exactly is compromise? You give up something and the other party gives up something, so you each get something but not everything you want.  Does it have to be an even split to be a successful compromise? Do you still have to feel like you “won” for it to be a negotiation you can live with?  And when it comes down to things like tax cuts versus unemployment benefits, are these exactly apples to apples?  Meaning: can you really trade one for the other and have it even be something you can weigh as one being equal enough to the other for their trade-offs to feel fair?

You can also define compromise as everyone being equally as disappointed.  It’s the cynic’s view of everyone getting something: everyone didn’t get something.  Which is fine so long as you also note that you’re not the only one who didn’t get something rather than just focusing on the items that you wanted but didn’t receive.

Either way: what’s done is done.  Some see a long-term strategy at play that, when spelled out, does make sense. But, is it a planned method to the madness, or is it just an attempt to find a pattern in the chaos?  I guess we’ll find out in a couple years, won’t we?

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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.