Monday, December 31, 2012

Progressive Comedy on the Brink

Dennis Kucinich reaches into American History to describe America on the brink of the fiscal cliff:
The Anasazi were Native Americans whose culture dated back 2,000 years. They were the cliff dwellers who built into the sheer walls of canyons extraordinary places to live. Yet, in 1300 A.D., these cliff dwellers, these great architects of culture and civilization,
mysteriously disappeared. 
 The people of this great Nation, the United States of America, are dwelling on real cliffs of fiscal insecurity: the cliffs of joblessness and low wages; the cliffs of mortgage foreclosure, homelessness; the cliffs of retirement insecurity; the cliffs of small business failure and investor uncertainty; the cliffs of violence at home and war abroad. 
 At a time when the government should be demonstrating its capacity to meet the practical aspirations of the American people for jobs, education, health care, and retirement security, the government instead would have America dwell at the edge of a fiscal cliff in a manufactured crisis to manufacture consent for a deal that would otherwise be unacceptable. 
 Leaders of both parties would do well to remember that the original cliff dwellers, as great as they were, disappeared.
 Meanwhile, Sheila Jackson Lee finds her wisdom on a coffee cup, in a bag of potato chips, and on an AARP card:
I think it is enormously important that, as Starbucks said, we ``come together.'' And we can do so. We can do it in a rationality that takes a simple analysis. A simple analysis says that if I like a bag of potato chips, that's a luxury item, I can run in and get it. I don't have to think about it. Its cost is manageable. If I want to go in and get a high-end Cadillac, I'll think about it for a couple of days. 
 That should be the thought process for this fiscal cliff. Pass the $250,000 that will give 99 percent of Americans a tax break. Protect hose who are unemployed who have worked and provide for their unemployment insurance. Protect those with the AMT--30 million taxpayers will fall over the cliff if we don't fix that, 222,000  Texans. And then if we have to deal with looking at how we address the question of reforming those benefits of Americans who work like Medicare and Social Security, we can do so. But I join the AARP, I join senior citizens: Leave Social Security alone. The changed CPI will not
work, and that is not a time to deal with it in these waning hours. 
 We, Republicans, created this quagmire with the sequestration. We need to go and be able to address the immediacy. Get your bag of potato chips, cut the taxes for 99 percent of the American people and protect the unemployed. 
 One takes the humor where one can. Because the cliff is here, we are going over, and men and women of good will seem unable to win their points in Washington. Because the GOP recognizes spending is an issue -- but can't seem to accept that if there is to be sacrifice, a Democracy is going to require that it be shared. And the Democrats, in their Progressive bleeding hearts, think that they can always find revenue to fund their spending, so why stop spending?

There's not good cheer for this moderate today. Think I'll spike the egg nog and down a few...

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Newspaper of Record Ignores The News

The New York Times runs another episode in its carefully constructed sitcom, "That Darn Congress".  It begins it with a tried and sometimes true witticism:
Senators bid hasty goodbyes to families, donned ties and pantsuits in lieu of sweat pants and Christmas sweaters and one by one returned to the Capitol on Thursday to begin the business of doing nothing in particular.
 Har, har har. That kind of joke could have been uttered by Will Rogers while doing rope tricks at the Ziegfeld Follies back in Wilson's day. (If you don't get the reference, google it.) Problem is, the Senate was actually doing business yesterday that most people would consider important. Not that the NYT snark-meister noticed:
Amid the absurdity of an urgent, nonurgent holiday session, there was the odd hum of normalcy. Senators fulminated about espionage for hours on the Senate floor as they debated the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Congressional aides wore their workday best as they sped through hallways, clutching their phones. Taco Thursday continued as it does each week in the small carryout restaurant where staff members collect lunches to be eaten at desks. Mr. Paul, as per usual, tussled with the leadership over one of his amendments.
What the NYT person missed was the "fulmination" over FISA was actually a fairly significant debate, as the rules that govern how foreign intelligence is gathered would have expired on December 31, had the Senate not acted. (Yes, there was a looming FISA cliff, as well as a Fiscal Cliff.) The debate dealt with some basic issues in our Democracy -- the reach of the 4th Amendment, the craptacular way Congress handles significant legislation (there was only one day to debate this bill, and no practical way to amend it, if the FISA cliff were to be avoided), Obama broken promises, and failures by the NSA and the FBI to provide reports required by the currently expiring version of FISA. You'd  think the New York Times would pay attention to the words of the like-minded Pat Leahy:
When Congress has authorized the use of expansive and powerful surveillance tools that have the potential to impact so significantly the constitutional rights of law-abiding
Americans, isn't this exactly the type of situation that calls for that sort of vigorous and independent oversight?
 But, I guess the NYT narrative of the moment demands snark, mockery, and, when it comes to the sort of civil rights issue that used to engage them, silence.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Iconography from the Democrats

Happy Holidays

My Congressman chooses to feature both the First and the Second black presidents in his Christmas card. Interesting that Lewis, who, with total historical accuracy could easily feature Martin Luther King in anything he does, instead chooses Clinton.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Forgotten Oppressed

When the world thinks of oppressed peoples, it has a few favorite groups to be obsessed about. Palestinians. Women in the Muslim world. Followers of the Dali Lama. Maybe a tear or two gets shed for Egyptians who are also Liberals.

One group gets forgotten. Probably that group's members are like too much like many of us. They are Christians -- and Christians don't suffer too much here in the USA. But these Christians misfortune is that they live in the Middle East. Rep. Frank Wolf explains.
A phrase not often heard outside the majority Muslim world is ``First the Saturday people, then the Sunday people.'' The `Saturday people'' are of course the Jews. Their once vibrant communities in countries throughout the region are now decimated. In 1948 there were roughly 150,000 Jews in many as 80,000 Jews and now less than 100 remain. It appears a similar fate could befall the ancient Christian community in these same lands. Iraq's Christian population has fallen from as many as 1.4 million in 2003 to between 500,000 and 700,000. Churches have been targeted, believers kidnapped for ransom, families threatened with violence if they stay. 
It's easy to denigrate the evangelical Christian community's concerns, because many of their prescriptions for America are ones that people of other faiths do not necessarily want to follow. But is is this the sort of thing we in America want to ignore?
 Shabbaz Bhatti, Pakistan's Federal Minister for Minority Affairs, and the only Christian Member of the cabinet and an outspoken critic of his country's blasphemy laws, was one such man. On March 2, 2011 he was murdered, his car riddled with bullets, leaving his mother's house for work. In a video filmed shortly before his assassination, Bhatti appears to sense that the path he has chosen will come with a price. When asked about the threats against his life, he said, without malice or fear, ``I believe in Jesus Christ who has given his own life for us. I know what is the meaning of [the] cross. And I am following the cross. And I am ready to die for a cause.'' And so he did. 
 Apparently, with respect to this Administration, the answer is yes:
Bipartisan legislation to create a Special Envoy position at the State Department charged with advocating on behalf of religious minorities in the Middle East and South Central Asia overwhelmingly passed the House a year and a half ago. But it has remained stalled in the Senate as a result of State Department opposition and the refusal of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, rumored to be in the running for Secretary of State or Defense, to even hold a hearing on the legislation. 
Will the Church community speak out on this? Will the government hear?
The book of Proverbs tells us to ``Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. . . .'' Bhatti can no longer speak. The Chinese bishop under house arrest cannot speak. The North Korean enslaved in the gulag cannot speak. The Iraqi nun fearing for her life cannot speak. Will we be their voice? Martin Luther King famously said, ``In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.'' Are we not their friends?
After a very bitter election, I fear much of the evangelical community is inclined to turn inward, lick their wounds, and not fight for anyone's liberty but their own. But if the Evangelicals are looking for the kind of fight where they might attract allies, rather than scare off those of different faiths, this might be a good place to start.


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chucky Schumer Hearts the Second Amendment

Chuck Schumer, in the course of a long dialog about various and diverse things (most requiring appropriations to be spent in New York), offered thoughts about the Second Amendment that sounded different than the usual leftish thoughts on the least leftist beloved portion of the Bill of Rights:
So we have to acknowledge that guns are a way of life and that the second amendment has a rightful place in the Constitution. We cannot interpret the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth amendments as broadly as possible and then say the second
amendment should be seen through a pinhole of militias
, that it only affects militias. That is only fair. 
Now, since Schumer is a gun control advocate -- one wonders. How does he reconcile what he wants with the Constitution?

This is how:
Our colleagues on the pro gun side should admit another thing, and that is that no amendment is absolute. As important as the [Second Amendment] is, as constitutional, as enshrined as it is, no amendment is absolute. 
Take the first amendment. We can't falsely scream fire in a crowded theater. That creates such danger. That is an impingement on someone's first amendment rights. We have anti-child pornography laws. We should have them, but that too is a limitation on the first amendment. Even libel laws, in a pure first amendment world, you could say and defame
anything about anybody you wanted. We say no. That is a limitation on the first amendment. Well, just as there can be limitations on the first amendment, and yet the essence of the first amendment is preserved, the same should be true of the second amendment.  
To be a bit more specific, Schumer suggests:
I would argue that other changes--making it harder for mentally ill people to get guns or saying assault weapons are weapons of war and don't belong on our streets but belong on the battlefield--do not interfere with the enjoyment I experienced when I went hunting with Ben Nelson, nor with the right of a small shopowner in a bad neighborhood who feels he needs a gun or she needs a gun to protect themselves.
Schumer depicts himself as a man in search of the middle ground on this issue:
 There can be a way of moving forward in the middle, with the left admitting the second amendment is important and as much a part of the Constitution as the others, and with the right admitting that limitations on that amendment--as there are limitations on the first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth--do not interfere with the fundamental right and, in fact, that no amendment can be absolute.
The fact is, the judicial system has gone through some painful contortions to get those "limitations", and some of those limitations have later embarrassed the nation.  Most of those limitations have arisen during some great national upset, much as the one we experienced on Friday.

Liberties are a dangerous thing to give up, even though there may be more argument pro on the issue of gun rights. It's nice that Schumer is actually addressing the issue, when typically Congress likes to forget about the Constitution while enacting whatever is on its mind. But my guess is that the right side of things will have a hard time believing that those on his side actually think:
It is only right the second amendment to the Constitution is there just as the others are and deserves respect and not an endless effort to chip away at it.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Obama Revealed

President Obama, in a fairly eloquent fashion, revealed his worldview last night:

This is our first task -- caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations? Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children -- all of them -- safe from harm? Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return? Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer is no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.
There's a lot to unpack here. But here is Obama's second term in a nutshell:

  • Government must care for, and be responsible for the children.
  • The President has thought things over, and will now make society change.
When Obama talks about things related to family, he often becomes quite eloquent, and it is in these moments those of us who voted for him the first time round see glimpses of what we hoped we were getting. After four years of it, though, all I can see are the warning signs, and the implicit egotism of his statement that he has been a thinkin', and now this here country has gotta change to align itself to his way of thinkin'. Because, remember:

We can’t tolerate this anymore. These tragedies must end. And to end them, we must change. We will be told that the causes of such violence are complex, and that is true. No single law -- no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world, or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society.
But that can’t be an excuse for inaction. Surely, we can do better than this. If there is even one step we can take to save another child, or another parent, or another town, from the grief that has visited Tucson, and Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Newtown, and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that -- then surely we have an obligation to try.
And here, we have a very American version of Progressivism at work. Obama has been imbued with the spirit of Woodrow Wilson, who always knew best, and was driven to instruct the nation on its duties. Obama knows that laws must be passed, because when there is a problem in Society, there must be more Laws.  And in this, Obama falls prey to the illusion that the proper role of government is to remake society. Society remakes government, not the other way around.

It is probably best for the Country, if not for Obama, that the President will probably be surprised and disappointed on how Society responds to his ministrations.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Rant on a Rant

Michael Walsh has a hissy fit in NRO's Corner about Mitt, Rockefeller Republicans (they still exist?), and the otherwise insufficiently Conservative who appear to be running the GOP House caucus these days. It serves as a handy compendium of how NOT to react to electoral defeat, and should be read in its totality as an example of a pundit allowing his id to run amok. But, like many a temper tantrum, it gives us a window into an unpleasant worldview. And that worldview is mostly about somebody else's unpleasant worldview:

The Romney fiasco should be the death knell of the Washington Generals approach to competing against the Democrats, and the whole lot of the Old Guard — starting with weepy John Boehner — should be tossed out and replaced with those who can distinguish between strategy and tactics and who understand that the only acceptable strategic outcome should be total victory over the modern Left and its alien, imported ideology. After all — that’s certainly the other side’s goal.
 Lest we think that Mr. Walsh is merely extrapolating some blogging lefty's twitter account into the Carefully Articulated Viewpoint of the Other, Walsh drags in some big names in European philosophy to demonstrate that the other side is motivated by Satan (or, at least, a bunch of Commies):

Of course, that depends on whether you see the current conflict as simply politics-as-usual, in which both sides share the same basic values and aspirations, and differ only in methods (the Boehner approach); or as a struggle between individualism and collectivism, which has been going on in Europe since Rousseau and his evil love child, Karl Marx, but is still relatively new to these shores. But extending the olive branch toward an opponent who’s not prepared to extend to you the slightest shred of moral or political legitimacy is suicidal.
 What Mr. Walsh does not mention, blinded as he is by the fact the modern Left finally won an election, is that both moral and political legitimacy has to be continuously earned, or it withers away. The Congressional Republicans, by their conduct since the first governmental shutdown, have done a good job of trashing it through a stupid impeachment, periodic government shutdowns, and a debt limit fight poorly understood by the public, until the credit downgrade, and reams of unsettling rhetoric in the style of Robspierre. Presidential Republicans gave us an oopsy-daisy war. The Republican Primaries gave us a cattle call of the comically unready, and Mitt Romney, who gives Mr. Walsh dyspepsia. Given this record, Mr. Walsh should worry less about the Left, and be concerned a to whether the American people are willing to concede to the GOP "the slightest shred of moral or political legitimacy"

Mr. Walsh is upset (as I am) by the end state of GOP fecklessness, though he blames those confounded Rockefeller Republicans (all one or two of them), rather than the people who need the blame. In his dismay, he cries:

The reason no one speaks for the GOP is that there’s nothing to speak for — no principles other than accommodation, and thus no message. 
 And that cry is nonsense. To many, the main principle of the the GOP for the last several years has been confrontation, and no underlying message behind it. Boehner is in his fix now because the GOP has allowed itself to appear pointlessly pugnacious time and time again.

That said, I do agree with Walsh's conclusion:

And until [the GOP gets a message], something at once fundamentally American and electrifyingly appealing, it’s not going to find its voice.

I have a feeling, however, that Walsh and I are not going to want the same message.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Is Fiscal Cliff a Mere Matter of Peanuts?

You can find this quote in the Congressional Record today:

It reminds me of the ``Charlie Brown'' cartoon. How many times is Charlie Brown going to try to kick that football? Because we know every time he approaches that football it will be taken away from him. He can't do it. That is what has happened here, and we are not going to fall for that again.
Try to guess who said it. I'll even make this a multiple choice question:

  1.  Mitch McConnell, in the midst of asking where the President was in trying to reduce government spending;
  2. Harry Reid, in the midst of a lament that the Republicans never admit what taxes they would increase in one of their deals;
  3. Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), quoting Rush Limbaugh on how the Democrats are making patsies of the Republican leadership
  4. Nancy Pelosi, complaining that Republicans are against the children.
The fact that I can do this suggests that this political cliche needs retirement.

The Accomplishments of Our Leaders

The Extended Remarks section of the Congressional Record has long been a sort of depository for the random tributes, self-promotions, and obsessions of our elected officials. As such, it's sometimes valuable in determining what's going through the empty-seeming heads of our politicians, and the things that really get their motors running. The Hon. Gary C. Peters reveals one of his great accomplishments, on the occasion of celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Michigan Lottery:

As a former Commissioner of the Michigan Lottery, this milestone is one that I view with a personal point of pride. While serving as Lottery Commissioner, I was pleased to implement a new innovative game, Club Keno, which spurred growth by offering participants the chance to play a fun, fast and action-oriented game that could yield up to a $100,000 prize off just a single $1 bet.

In this era of class warfare, it's odd to see a Democrat celebrate an indirect but efficient tax on the poor and middle class, that frankly targets people who might have a gambling problem. But, hey, I guess if you get more revenue for government, you are a hero of the working class, even when you are busy extracting money from the working class.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Tuesday's Budget Homilies

Boehner, speaking on the current state of the negotiations, asserts the President is demanding revenues with no specific cuts

  A lot of people know that the President and I met on Sunday. It was a nice meeting, it was cordial; but we're still waiting for the White House to identify what spending cuts the President is willing to make as part of the ``balanced approach'' that he promised the American people. Where are the President's spending cuts? The longer the White House slow-walks this process, the closer our economy gets to the fiscal cliff. 
  But here's what we do know: we know that the President wants more stimulus spending and an increase in the debt limit without any cuts or reforms. That's not fixing our problem. Frankly, it's making it worse. On top of that, the President wants to raise tax rates on many small business owners. Now, even if we did exactly what the President wants, we would see red ink for as far as the eye can see. That's not fixing our problem either; it's making it worse and it's hurting our economy.
 Pelosi asserts the GOP are demanding cuts with no specific revenue:
The fact is that the President has, and Democrats agree with him, agreed to around $1.6 trillion in cuts in the Budget Control Act and other acts of Congress in this particular
Congress, $1.6 trillion in cuts. Where are the cuts? They're in bills that you, Mr. Speaker, have voted for. 
 Secondly, on the issue of the entitlements with the Affordable Care Act and with legislation, suggestions and provisions in the President's budget, it amounts to over $1 trillion in savings in Medicare, over $1 trillion in savings which have been redirected to prolonging the life of Medicare, making it stronger for nearly a decade while increasing
benefits for our seniors and those who depend on Medicare--not reducing but increasing benefits. There's been a massive misrepresentation about what that is, so I want to set the record straight. So in terms of spending cuts, we are on the record having voted for about $1.6 trillion.
  In terms of entitlement reform, there is over $1 trillion already and more savings to be gained in further discussions on the subject by a strong down payment. 
  What is missing are two elements that the President has put forth in his budget: growth, investments in infrastructure--yes, the President has called for investments in infrastructure to build the infrastructure of America and to create jobs to grow our economy; and, where are the revenues? Where are the revenues? Regardless of the cuts
or the changes in entitlements, more is demanded in terms of what seniors would have to pay into Medicare and at what age that would happen, while the Republicans refuse to touch one hair on the head of the wealthiest people in our country.
 Well, surely we can all agree with this homily:
We cannot and will not sustain deficits like these without end. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom in Washington these past few years, we cannot simply spend as we please and defer he consequences to the next budget, the next administration, or the next generation. We're paying the price for this budget right now.
 President Obama, are you listening? After all, you do like the sound of your own voice.

(The wisdom of President Obama was brought to you by Austin Scott, Representative from Georgia, and a man in a futile search of ideological consistency from a practicing politician)


The Democrat Self Parody De Jour

As the fiscal cliff -- a moment of boundless evil -- approaches, the Hon. George Miller reminds his colleagues what is at stake:

I rise today to make my colleagues aware of a letter I was recently presented from Members-elect from California who are concerned about the impact of impending budget decisions on infants, toddlers, preschoolers and their families in California and throughout the Nation. I commend our colleagues for this letter and I share their concerns.
The letter, signed by 11 Representatives-elect from California, led by Rep.-elect Julia Brownley with the support of First 5 LA highlights the impact of sequestration on children in California and urges Congress to ``protect the youngest among us.'' 
 I join the Members-Elect in urging Congress to champion the needs of our most  vulnerable population--our children--as we consider the
pending decisions regarding the budget.
So, remember everyone, as the Republicans send us all over the fiscal cliff, because they so love low taxes for the wealthy, that Republicans also hate the children. Repeat as necessary. Nancy Pelosi thanks you in advance for your consideration.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bad Art from Baltimore

Though the nation may be headed towards fiscal Armageddon, the Middle East may be heading to Armageddon , and official Washington is fixated on the idea that the Republicans Must Raise Tax Rates On The Wealthy Or All Doom Will Be Their Fault, there is still space for whimsy in the pages of the Congressional Record. Too bad it is wasted on Bad Art.

I realize it is bad form to speak ill of the dead, even if you are from Cleveland, and the subject is the man who loved a new stadium more than the city that made him wealthy. But when a poem that can un-ironically declare:
When, in came riding on a white horse to stake his claim. Was a man of such a great heart . . . as Modell was his name! And Baltimore may have lost their name, but in the end regained a team . . . As Art said, quote The Raven . . . about losing your team . . . it won't happen ``Never More!''
Then it is time for exposure, mockery, and wonderment at the offensive irrelevancy of Congressional sentiment.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Student Loan Road to Serfdom

Dick Durbin shared some stories of debt, yesterday, on the floor of Congress. This time, the debt is individual:

One constituent recently contacted my office about his experience at a for-profit college. He attended the International Academy of Design and Technology, a for-profit college in Chicago owned by the Career Education Corporation, one of the major league for-profit colleges. 
His parents did not have the means to pay for his education but helped him out by cosigning his loans. Now the student and the parents have $103,000 in student loan debt. One of the loans has a 13-percent interest rate and his balance continues to rise.
This young man--young man--would like to finish his degree, but he cannot afford to. He cannot borrow any more money. He is too deeply in debt. How about that for a dilemma? Madam President, $103,000 in debt, no degree, he cannot borrow the money to get a degree.
 Here's another story:

Ana McNamara is another borrower who contacted my office when she started to feel hopeless about her student loans. Ana is nearly 45 years old and owes more than $200,000 in student loans. How about that? She did what you are suppose to do. She went to college. She worked her way through school. She had to take out some loans to help pay the cost.
  After graduating, she said: I need to go to law school. She took out some more loans. When she graduated, her total loan balance was $90,000. That is pretty tough. She thought it was manageable though. With interest rates up to 9 percent, though, her balance kept growing faster than she could pay off the loan. 
  Now she says she does not have anything on the Earth but student loans. She says she will never have anything to call her own because her credit is ruined, ruined because she went to college and law school, borrowing too much money to do it. She cannot even qualify for a car loan she is so deeply in debt. She believes no matter how hard she works she will never be able to pay off her loans.
Ana McNamara does not think now that she should have even gone to college. She says it was a big mistake that destroyed her life.
Now, what Durbin does not tell us is that Ana McNamara is actually the victim the distortions government largesse can cause. She took loans from the government -- loans she might not never would have been able to get had the Pell Grant program never been invented. She probably went to one of those schools you see advertised on cable tv, which make a profit off grants and loans for the government from students like McNamara. As even a bleeding heart like Durbin notices, the result of government program has been the creation of a:
for-profit college industry [that] is a national disgrace--to think that they siphon off $30 billion a year in student assistance. If it were a Federal agency, the for-profit schools in America would be the ninth largest Federal agency, they take in that much money from the Federal Government. They use our money, taxpayers' money, to advertise their worthless schools and worthless diplomas. Everywhere you turn you see their advertising.
Durbin, of course, has his suggestions for the problem, which sound like restricitions on for-profit schools. Some are sensible -- such as restoration of the right to discharge these loans in bankruptcy. He mimics Glenn Reynolds in suggesting:

We need to put some skin in the game so if these kids cannot get a job after they get out of the college, the schools themselves bear some responsibility for the debt that is left behind.
 But, mostly, in this speech, he demonstrates the need for Liberals. Sometimes, government does have to act to better lives of individuals, and Conservatives are often uncomfortable about making those sorts of arguments. Most of the time, that action required involves undoing what prior Liberals have done. But it's good to have someone caring about people on the wrong end of society.

UPDATE: Bgates over at Just One Minute has found Ana McNamara. She's not a graduate of a for profit. Indeed, her law office has a website, and I can't imagine being the poster child for endless debt is going to help the practice. Yikes!


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Is Rep. Mike Coffman a Serious Deficit Hawk?

Commenter narciso, commenting in my madien post below, thinks I may have bashed Rep. Mike Coffman's thinking unfairly, since I did no research into his voting record, or other history. He has a point. But when is a blogger fair? (And how much time do I have to spend writing and researching my great thoughts anyway.)

In my own defense, I will say that I am not a great fan of trying to figure a congressman out from his votes. Mr. Coffman represents a very conservative Colorado district, and it is fair to assume his votes will reflect his district. As they should.

I think a better approach to judging a Congressman is to see what he is putting out in terms of speeches, press conferences, and articles. Usually, the congressman's website is a good source for this. And in this case, I would conclude that Mr. Coffman is sometimes a serious deficit hawk. From the minute you hit his homepage, you are treated to a rotating deficit clock. Scroll to his news articles, and you find that he thinks congressional pensions should be abolished. He thinks defense sequestration is dumb, but that there is room for defense cuts.  (For the record, his suggestions in defense look perfectly reasonable -- perhaps unsurprising, since he is ex-military.)

But the problem is that he also believes this:

  To return our nation to prosperity and to make our economy globally competitive we must stop out of control deficit spending, cut taxes, end unnecessary regulatory burdens on business, provide access to credit for small business, and focus our education resources on math, science, engineering and technology.
 And he figures that the solution to the spending issue isn't really Medicare:

Health care reform is essential for containing cost and expanding access. This can be accomplished without raising taxes or stripping $100's of billions out of the Medicare system in order to start a new entitlement program.
 Which leads us to his big pet issue, the Balanced Budget Amendment. The BBA, frankly, is a fraud. It's an easy thing to support, because it will never pass. Even if it passes Congress, it will not receive the support of all the state legislatures required to pass a constitutional amendment.  Nonetheless, subtract defense, congressional pay and benefits from Mr. Coffman's portfolio, and you get pablum like this:

Washington’s spending is out of control. Our country’s debt is crippling our economy, hurting small businesses and families, and putting our nation’s security at risk.

America doesn’t need more spending, or higher taxes on working families, senior citizens and job creators. Instead, we need to rein in Washington’s out of control spending.

Join Congressman Coffman, chairman of the Congressional Balanced Budget Amendment Caucus, and tell Washington that we need a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment.
 Which leads me back to my initial post, where I sarcastically indicated that it must be tough to be Rep. Coffman, and believe that advocacy of the Balanced Budget Amendment actually does anything about the national debt. I'll stick by that. His biography, and his good sense of defense budgeting, suggests that the Congressman knows better, and still wastes his leadership on a phantom issue.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Deal That's Coming

The tea leaves are telling us that there will be no grand compromise before January. Listen to Press Secretary Carney:

 I think we all acknowledge now -- Democrats and Republicans and the White House -- that a process has to be in place here that envisions two stages, because there’s interest in entitlement reform by all sides, there’s interest in tax reform by all sides, but that is not likely to be achieved between now and the end of the year. But there is an agreement that can be reached that is balanced, that's fair, that commits all sides to tough choices, and the President is very interested in achieving that deal.
In the meantime, the Democrats are finding their way again to demonize the Republicans as insensitive tax increasers. One can simply look at the White House website -- with its pictures of struggling middle class families to see the strategy at work, but we'll let a Congressional backbencher Janice Hahn put in print:

As we race toward this fiscal cliff, we are faced with a number of looming problems, not the least of which is the threat of a crushing middle class tax hike. If we fail to act, middle class Americans could see their next tax bills rise by more than $3,000, and
while there will be much to disagree on in the coming negotiations, no one wants this to happen. A tax hike of this size on the middle class would be a terrible burden on families who are just beginning to recover from this Great Recession.
With congressional approval at an all-time low, we cannot pass up this opportunity to prove to the American people that we can work together. President Obama's legislation to extend the middle class tax cuts has already been passed by the Senate, and it now depends on us. We should embrace this opportunity to vote on something we can agree on and bring this legislation to the floor.
While the GOP rumor mill has been mulling over a Boehner escape plan in which the tax cuts for the middle class are extended, and nothing else done, the Democrats have been working to advocate this very outcome. Since this approach is the one that does not require the GOP leadership, or the Dems to do very much, this is the result we will get. The President ran a very hard campaign for almost two years, and needs that three week vacation.
I suspect that I should be happy with this result -- because I think the GOP really needs to come to grips with the reality that the Bush tax cuts can not continue with the level of deficits this country has run. Problem is, I don't see the Democrats doing a thing about entitlements, after the can is kicked down the road a couple of months. They will be too busy working on their victory laps. About the only thing that could disrupt that is a rating agency downgrade.
I look forward to the debate on the debt level increase. Where we get to do this brinkmanship routine that accomplishes nothing all over again.

Harry Reid - The Non-Negotiating Negotiator

Harry Reid again delivers a homily on the fiscal cliff from the Senate floor, showing once again his unrivaled negotiation skills.

First, we offer Boehner a stark choice -- if he keeps his job, he's no patriot:
As my friend, the senior Senator from Missouri, said on the Sunday talkshows, the Speaker has to make a decision whether it is more important to keep his job or to do something about the economy that is in such difficult shape in America. He has to make a choice.
Then we make sure everyone knows what a greedy Capitalist pig he is:
As usual, given the choice between millionaires and billionaires and the middle class, Republicans again sided with the wealthy of this country. 
 And we make it clear how awful simply awful and useless their proposal was:
While their proposal may be serious, it is also a nonstarter. They know any agreement that raises taxes on the middle class in order to protect more unnecessary giveaways to the top 2 percent is doomed from the start. It will not pass.
A person who uses language like that does not want a deal. He wants to see the other party crushed. Well, at least as long as the polling on crushing them is good.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Hey Boehner -- Do The Country a Favor and Quit!

Harry Reid has some advice for Republicans on negotiation tactics:

True compromise means no one gets everything they want, but unless both sides come to the negotiating table with an offer, you can't even begin the negotiation. In fact, unless both sides come to the table with an offer, there is no negotiation.
 Over the last week, Republican leaders from both Chambers have complained that Democrats put forward a proposal for resolving the fiscal cliff that reflected our priorities--our priorities. What did they expect?

My guess is that Boehner expected exactly what he got. Something Reid probably knows. What he may not have expected is Reid suggesting that career suicide might be a good idea:

It will be hard for Speaker Boehner to pass our bill--no, it wouldn't be hard at all; it would be so easy. Every Democrat in the House will vote for it--every Democrat in the House. To reach 218 votes, which is half plus 1 in the House, it takes only 26 reasonable Republicans willing to put the needs of the middle-class demands ahead of Grover Norquist. That is so simple.

  So when my friend, the Speaker, says he can't pass it, that is simply without foundation or fact, and it is not true.
So, all Boehner needs to do is cave to the Democrats offer, find 26 like minded Republicans, and end this fiscal cliff nonsense. He's a liar if he says otherwise. Of course, that would probably be the end of Boehner's  career as Speaker, but, hey, that's OK:

As my friend and colleague, the senior Senator from Missouri, Claire McCaskill, said on a Sunday talk show yesterday, John Boehner has a decision to make. This is what she said: ``He's got to decide, is his speakership more important or is the country more important.'' That is a pretty easy question to answer for everyone. It should be an easy
question to answer for Speaker Boehner.
 We anxiously await Sen. Reid's defiance of his party and his President on a matter of principle. Heck, I'll settle for a budget.

It's rhetoric like this that makes it very hard for there to be any deal on fiscal matters. When leaders (as opposed to backbenchers) engage in it, you have to figure that the leaders really don't want the deal.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Fantasies From the Dems

Today's news has the GOP and the Administration leaking their contingency plans, should it looks as if we were bound for the fiscal cliff. And we better get used to the idea that the cliff is a-coming, because legislators look to be determined to stay in their own little fantasy worlds. A lengthy example of the Marvel Comics universe preferred by our Progressive representatives can be found in Friday's congressional speechifying by Bobby Scott, who explains how whatever is wrong is the GOP's fault.

Like any good comic book alternate universe, we have an orgin story:
The projections were that, by 2008, the entire national debt held by the public would be paid off with no money owed to China, Japan, or Saudi Arabia. We would have paid off all of those debts. All the money would have been back in the trust funds by 2013.
That's where we were beginning in 2001, but the Republicans talked people into thinking that you could pass tax cuts without paying for them, massive tax cuts in 2001 and 2003. There were two wars not paid for and a prescription drug benefit not paid for. All of that surplus evaporated, and now we find ourselves deeply in debt. Rather than paying off the debt, we have more than doubled the debt.
 (Love the use of passive voice here. We manage to omit that a whole lot of the doubling occurred in the current administration)

Continuing along,  Mr. Scott throws in the deviations from reality that allows a good comic book alternate universe to function:
Social Security should be completely off the negotiating table since it does not contribute to the deficit. Additionally, the Congressional Black Caucus will specifically oppose any plan that changes eligibility for Medicare...

The Affordable Care Act should not be on the negotiating table. The program does not add to the debt and must be protected and fully implemented as planned
 And, in comic book world, you need a good villain. The GOP is so made to order for that:
The last time Republicans had a budget that reduced the size of the government, they cut almost $300 million out of Embassy security. That's what they mean by reducing the size of government. Usually what they mean is Social Security and Medicare..."
And those villains must have mad, mad dreams:
If you look at the budget and if you take out Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and defense and if you just look at what's called the nondefense discretionary budget, that's about--I'd say in round figures--$400 billion. If you're trying to get $4 trillion in cuts in 10 years, that's $400 billion a year. You would have to eliminate government. There would be no Embassy security, no FBI agents, no food inspection, no Federal prisons, no Head Start, no education, no FEMA, no transportation. I mean, nothing, nothing.
  Ms. MOORE. Except for tax cuts.
  Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. You would have to eliminate everything in order to fund a total extension of the tax cuts.
And they want to force good salt of the earth people to give up things to finance their overwhelming greed:
So when you start talking about the different ways of cutting Social Security, we need to make sure that it's in the context, that we're talking about cutting Social Security in order to preserve the tax cuts.
I mean, seriously, reading all this, one can only conclude that the way to spell "evil" is "GOP". And what good person negotiates with evil? I mean, saying the GOP is evil might be a little strong, but as Sheila Jackson Lee puts it: 
Who wants to make a fuss about Medicare when it's solvent until 2024? . Who wants to make a fuss about Social Security when it's solvent and you earned it?
Get ready for the fiscal cliff....

Magic Thinking from the GOP

It's tough being a Congressman, GOP version, like the honorable Mike Coffman of Colorado, who posts this on pages Pages E1859-E1860 of the 11/30 Congressional Record. You have to actually believe stuff like this:

Mr. Speaker, on January 20, 2009, the day President Obama took office, the national debt was $10,626,877,048,913.08. 
 Today, it is $16,323,083,449,604.98. We've added $5,696,206,400,691.90 to our debt in nearly 4 years.
 (OK-- so far so good. It's useful to point out that the President is a trifle out of control when it comes to spending. But the problem is the conclusion...)

This is $5 trillion in debt our nation, our economy, and our children could have avoided with a balanced budget amendment.
And here is the GOP -- irresponsible tea party division-- in a nutshell. Spending bad. Spending problem. Wave magic constitutional wand. Problem gone. And with no sweat, we show we are real, real serious. Without actually doing anything remotely real.