Category Archives: Republicans

The GOP Want To Raise Taxes?

You have to give David Weigel a lot of credit for writing this story on how the Republican nominees for President are telling middle and working class families they should be paying more taxes. Trust me, when everyone is on vacation, and staffers aren’t sending out press releases, (between; I probably shouldn’t be saying this) it gets pretty hard to find something to write about. So props for Weigel’s creativeness, but unfortunately I don’t believe his argument will hold much water.

Weigel quotes Michelle Bachmann as saying”Part of the problem is today, only 53 percent pay any federal income tax at all; 47 percent pay nothing,” said Bachmann. “We need to broaden the base so that everybody pays something, even if it’s a dollar. Everyone should pay something, because we all benefit.”

It sounds eerily familiar to the argument Warren Buffet made a couple of weeks ago on why rich people should pay more in taxes. But he was talking about him and his friends who own corporate jets, not the people who don’t have enough saved to retire or are having trouble paying the rent. Personally, I would love for the GOP nominee to tell people he/she is going to raise their taxes. It would be a complete turnaround from trying to appease the Tea Party and Grover Norquist to saying Keynes was right after all.

Not surprisingly, the American people don’t want their taxes raised. In a Rasmussen Poll conducted earlier this month, 64 percent of Americans said it’s better to keep taxes low and reduce deductions, while only 16 percent said they would like to see higher taxes and more deductions. While economists like the debate whether or not people are rational, numbers like these show that they are.

The truth is the majority of people can’t afford to pay higher taxes right now. Whether it is a young person who graduated college and can’t find a job, a family with two kids that are about to take the SAT’s, or the main bread winner just loss his/her job and can’t find another one. But taking away small deductions like the child tax credit from Weigel’s report is a small step in the right direction. There are plenty of other, including corporate loopholes, that could be closed as well.

But the main reason why we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking taxes will be a winning issue for the Democrats is because the election is still over a year away. People aren’t going to remember what any of the nominees say now, especially since most people aren’t paying attention. Not to mention this story hasn’t gotten a lot of attention (sorry Dave) on television.

Even presumed front runner Mitt Romney is yelling at Republicans at the Iowa State Fair telling them he won’t raise their taxes. In Bachmann’s statement, she never gets specific on who the people not paying taxes are so the crowed won’t get awkwardly silent on her. If any of the nominees are specifically asked if they are going to raise taxes they will say no. I will bet any amount of money on it.

Even if more people noticed the statements being made right now, it would still be hard for people to believe Republicans want to raise taxes. Especially when the GOP uses easy to remember catch phrases like “tax and spend” to describe Democratic policies. So until we know who the GOP nominee is, I’m just looking for funny gaffes and reading the Borowitz Report.

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Filed under Republicans, taxes

Winning on the Debt Ceiling?

As the debt ceiling debacle continued in Washington, it didn’t seem like it was about the American people as much as it was about the coming election. Both Democrats, Republicans, and members of the Tea Party, were fighting tooth and nail to protect their priorities. Since they hear how hard it is to find a job from their constituents they were doing everything they could to protect theirs. That meant no compromise, no reform on entitlements, and no new taxes. In the meantime, the economy continued to spiral and American’s felt they were left without a government.

Whenever I go out with friends, politics is the last thing I bring up. No one ever wants to talk about it and strong emotions are always loudest which brings down the mood. But this week was different. After three weeks of absolute absurdity people started to come up to me to vent their frustration. The conversation would usually start with “what the hell is going on?” or “I can’t believe this is happening” and then proceeded for at least an hour (individually) of them complaining about how members of Congress have completely lost their minds. They were so frustrated they needed to vent, and I don’t blame them.

In the same week economists came out with revised numbers for the economy that showed we are basically still in a recession, the posturing got even worse. While government spending was the only thing keeping the economy going, all politicians were arguing about was how much of that spending should be cut. Then, instead of having a serious conversation about how to make sure Social Security will be there for future generations (the people who I was talking to) both sides were blaming the other on how they wanted to ruin it. Instead of coming together and dealing with the issue in a responsible matter, it wound up becoming a contest of who would blink first.

But why anyone in Congress thought this bickering would help them is beyond me. Gallup shows that both President Obama and everyone in Congress’ job approval was already pretty low, but sunk even further these last couple of weeks. It didn’t matter who they were either. Old, young, black, white, male, female, Democrat or Republican, people resoundingly disapproved of the way things were being conducted. Just like George W. Bush united the country against him during his final term, politicians united all American’s against them over the debt ceiling. When the news that Congress finally came to a deal was posted on Google Plus, tons of comments came in, and most people didn’t care as much for the plan as much as they were happy it was over.

While Obama overplayed his hand by asking for a grand bargain, Republicans refused to budge on any of their priorities, and Democrats refused to make any changes that might reduce the deficit or secure government programs. Personally, I wanted more government spending on specific items such as construction which is absolutely needed. We can’t keep letting our bridges fall, and it would have created jobs. One of my friends (who is getting his Masters in economics) told me that job creation is actually the best way to reduce the deficit. With more people earning money, more money would have been put into Social Security to secure the system, and other taxes could have been used to reduce the deficit. It would also be cheaper to do it now while prices are still low.

But really, some of the worst news came out today. Journalists, bloggers, and pundits, were discussing who had won and lost. It plays right into what American’s were complaining about this entire time. Whatever the specifics of the plan are, or how it turns out at the end, nobody won this debate. The way all politicians conducted themselves embarrassed the American people here and abroad. In a time when some American’s are living off food stamps and struggling to afford rent, people in Washington should conduct themselves in a matter that is attributable to the times, and stop wondering why mud is being thrown in their direction.

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Filed under Congress, debt ceiling, Democrats, Republicans

Are Third Party Candidates Practical?

After Thomas Friedman’s article on Sunday, there has been a lot of talk about a third party coming into the fold of American politics. American’s on both sides of the aisle are disgusted at what they are seeing. While all polls show people want a compromise on the debt ceiling, plans are being rejected on the left and right while the Congressional Budget Office is saying those plans won’t do any good anyway. So why can’t a third party break into the system?

One problem is money. Running races are expensive, particularly if you plan to go nationwide. In New York a candidate running for state Senate has to raise around three hundred thousand dollars just to be considered a serious contender. That’s not easy to get, particularly in the beginning when chances are not a lot of people have heard of you.

Getting the right people to run can also be hard. One of the reasons why the Tea Party was successful in the last election is that they ran candidates who were known in the state or district, had respectable jobs, family, and could stick to talking points. When new party’s come into play they are always coalesced around people on the extremes who are passionate about what they believe. Being an outsider is always good because you can say what the people want to hear without having any real responsibility. It also keeps the energy going because you are around people with similar views, and would probably be friends with them even if you met them another way. However, being too extreme can lead to political gaffes (i.e. Sarah Palin) that can swing the race.

Democrats and Republicans are also already very entrenched within the system. Here in New York, there is the Working Families Party (WFP) which has been around since the early 1990’s. They run grass roots campaigns and have a line on the election ballot. But in order to maintain a strong premise within the state, they work with Democrats. After going door to door for a few months telling people about the candidates they have endorsed, the people who said they would vote for that candidate are reminded about voting on WFP’s line. The more votes they garner the more political influence they have. The Party then tells the elected politicians how many votes they got for them and how many in their district actually favor more progressive policies. But that politician is still a Democrat, and probably wouldn’t be in office if he/she wasn’t because of the money raised to pay the people to go knock on doors.

I don’t think the Tea Party is as a powerful force in American politics as they claim to be. They got their candidates through primaries in more conservative areas, not to mention that the two extremes are the ones who show up for the primaries. Combined with a low Democratic turnout in the general election, they were able to get more seats then they probably should have. I’m not saying they didn’t run good campaigns, but their timing couldn’t have been worse for Democrats.

The internet is one of the major reasons people are excited about something new coming to American politics. It has made it a lot easier to organize and get messages out to the public, and quickly. It has also helped with fundraising efforts for political and grass root campaigns. But the messages that are sent out only goes to those who want to hear what these groups or individuals have to say. And obviously the money being raised is from people who would be donating anyway. But if it’s a local campaign or issue that is being funded by outside influence, it probably means you’re not reaching the people you need to.

What must frustrate political insiders though is that there hasn’t been a way to figure out how to reach those independents that can make or break issues. Eventually, politicians and interest groups are going to want to find a way to do it, especially as social media will become a part of our everyday lives. Someone is going to be willing to spend money to hire a smart programmer to create an algorithm that will find those independent voters. This is going to bring privacy and freedom of the internet issues to a whole new level.

The fact is no one is going to win politically over this debt fight. Both sides look incompetent and unable to lead. But the Tea Party/GOP are the ones who look extreme right now. Even though
Democrats are playing to the middle, that’s where most American’s are, and ultimately they are the ones who will decide the election. They won’t be voting for someone who seems too ideologically driven. Plus, with Obama back on the ballot, there is going to be a lot more people who are going to want to vote for him no matter what. Liberals will not like any of the other candidates, but times are too important for people to not want to participate.

Plus, whoever runs on this third party will need to be the right person. None of the Tea Party candidates can be taken seriously for President because they are too driven by ideology, that’s one of the reasons why we see the libertarian Ron Paul getting a lot of attention but going nowhere in the polls. Obama was the right person for the Democrat party in 2008. But remember, he played the game well.

So, are third party candidates viable? Not yet. It’s going to take a lot of effort by a lot of smart and talented people who can figure out a way to balance the energy to fight the man, along with promoting policies middle class American’s can agree to.

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Filed under debt ceiling, Democrats, Obama, Republicans

Democracy At Work?

On Sunday, Eric Cantor announced the second round of his “You Cut” website, where people are given three options of federal programs they would like to see taken out of the budget. In general, I’m in favor of open government initiatives in hopes it gets people to pay more attention, and realize it’s not as simple as choosing which programs to cut. But Cantor goes about opening up the process entirely the wrong way.

Instead of having an honest discussion on how to balance the budget, You Cut lists three things the Majority Whip would probably like to see gone anyway, without any discussion. Besides voting which program they would like to see cut, the only other option people have is to submit another program to cut in a small box explaining why it should be eliminated. I’m also not a conspiracy theorist, but I seriously doubt those suggestions are taken seriously. As someone who just created and researched websites, small boxes indicate to people they don’t have a lot of room, and if you really want more thoughtful suggestions you want to make it clear to your viewers they can say as much as they want. Instead, there is only a biased blurb about each program and why it’s bad, and there is no room for people to discuss why one program should be cut over the other.

So let’s take a look at the options presented to us. The first is to reduce the number of federal employees by 10 percent, saving $139 billion. The first thing that stands out to me, and how you know Ryan is making the numbers up, is he doesn’t even list the number of employees that will be cut. Just because someone is retiring, doesn’t mean that their job wasn’t important. All the water treatment plants around the country need to be inspected, and if land is to be used to for new or growing businesses, their needs to be an assessment to make sure it is safe. If there are problems in the future in either of these areas, people will ask why no one was on top of the situation.

The second option is to eliminate the Economic Development Administration (EDA) within the Commerce Department. Yes, this is one of the recommendations by the Bowles-Simpson commission. One of the reasons for the EDA, and the blurb points out, was to build roads across the country that would create jobs. Well, the last time I checked the country’s infrastructure was graded a D. So instead of throwing out things we know have worked in the past, why don’t we try and use them again in a time we need more jobs?

The last item on the website is about the Department of Energy’s Weather Assistance Program (WAP). Cantor, without posting any links, says that “The program generated headlines for significant instances of waste, fraud, and abuse, including paying for shoddy and ineffective workmanship and payment for work not actually done.” But it doesn’t discuss news outlets in Mississippi telling its viewers about the program and how it can help them. Or in the winter when Chuck Schumer touts how this program is keeping residents in upstate New York warm. The truth is this program helps millions of people around the country stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. By cutting it, Eric Cantor is telling all the people who apply to these grants, they should figure out how to pay for their energy bills themselves.

Obviously, as we have seen in recent events, there are ways politicians should and should not interact with their constituents. But the efforts people are taking to make the internet a platform where the government can interact with its people work long and hard hours figuring out ways to do so effectively. You Cut doesn’t accomplish any of the criteria those people are looking to accomplish. If Eric Cantor is serious about wanting to create a smart budget, he needs to figure out a better way to do it.

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Filed under Budget, budget ceiling, Congress, debt, economy, Eric Cantor, Government 2.0, Politics, Republicans

Policy and Debt Collide

After failing to pass a “clean” debt vote, Republican’s in Congress are looking for a compromise. The Hill reported today that Senator Jon Kyl said “the GOP would look to a shorter-term increase in the debt ceiling if the talks fail to produce more than $2.5 trillion in cuts.” The Treasury has been dipping into reserve funds to forestall the worst case scenario, but those funds will run out in July, and it looks like the GOP is still willing to play politics until the very last moment.

It left me with two questions. 1) What is Kyl thinking? $2.5 trillion worth in cuts?! In a time where most states are strapped for cash Republican’s have decided that cutting social programs that millions of American’s rely on is OK by them.

Plus, what is a “short term” increase? Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling every year for the past decade. If the time period is any shorter than that, it means the Republican’s aren’t kicking the can down the road, they’re crushing it.

If you’re a politician, the rule of thumb you follow in any crisis is to do no harm. Well, many families are in a crisis right now, and by not raising the debt ceiling Congress will be doing them harm. All the positive “estimates” that economists made for 2011 will be wiped out because, as the U.S. is already broke, there won’t be any room to make the investments it needs to execute programs that will help create jobs or make sure families are taken care of. As the majority of the debt is for paying programs such as Medicare and Social Security, asking for $2.5 trillion in cuts means these vital programs will be a part of it.

2) Can the Republican’s do math? Even though the Congressional Budget Office has stated numerous times The Affordable Care Act will reduce future deficits, all the GOP talks about is how it will ruin America. But as it will help our fiscal situation, it also saves lives. The law forbids insurance companies from saying no to certain medical treatments, and giving parents the ability to keep their children insured under their plan until they are 26. It also includes tax credits for small businesses, and makes sure seniors can pay for their prescription drugs. I’m not making this up.

But politics has succumbed over policy once again. The Affordable Care Act is better known as Obamacare, and recent polls show 47 percent of American’s do not want the debt ceiling raised. A Pew study also found the majority of people are not in favor of raising taxes or cutting benefits. But this is not because they are irrational people, it’s because they don’t have enough information. Our “leaders” in Congress are supposed to tell us what we need to know so we understand the actions they are taking. Instead, it has become a battle of words and trying to figure out which ones will position their party or candidate to win the next election. Instead of calling them out on it, the media focuses on it and polls the candidates that don’t even try to have credibility.

If the emergency funds run out and the debt ceiling isn’t raised, it means America will have to default on its loans, leading to an even worse economic down turn than the one we’re still recovering from. President Obama has said his decision to vote against raising the debt ceiling while still in the Senate was a mistake; it’s the Republican’s turn to stop playing politics and deal with the matters at hand.

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Filed under Congress, debt ceiling, Jon Kyl, Politics, Republicans

Teaching to Teach

Out of the several issues President Obama will have to tackle these next few years, renewing the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Law will be one of the toughest. One would think that a piece of legislation that Senator Kennedy pushed through Congress, and was signed by President George W. Bush, that in this new bipartisan era it wouldn’t have much problem getting through. But then again, the first vote to be taken in this new Congress is the “job-killing” repeal of the health care law.

The biggest problem President Obama will have trying to re-authorize NCLB will be that both Democrats and Republicans have issues with it, and some are legitimate. When the law was first enacted funding for NCLB was non-existent. States that were trying to implement its policies were unable because there was not enough money in the federal budget. This lead to the second problem: in order to qualify for what little funding there was, states had to device a way which would assess schools. The law never said that standardized tests had to be implemented, but it was the cheapest way to qualify for the federal money.

Since Arne Duncan took over the Department of Education, he devised a new way for states to compete called Race to the Top. The difference here was States had more standards to meet. Yes students still had to take tests, but more charter schools had to be created, and assessments had to be submitted. But in every race there’s always a loser. While most states changed their education system in order compete for the millions of dollars being dangled in front of them, most states did not receive any money, or not as much money as they thought they would or should get. When the second round came up, the states that got shunned threatened not to participate and derail Obama and Duncan’s image of how schools should be run.

I have no problem with using money to get what you want. It’s done all the time. Whether it is to stop people from drinking and driving, regulate pollution in streams and rivers, or building new wind turbines for energy, this is how our current government works and has for a long time. The problem I do have with this policy is that it won’t help children learn.

Making students take tests won’t get students to understand what they are being tested on. Where Secretary Duncan and school Superintendents around the country should focus its efforts, is figuring out the best methods to teach teachers how to teach, and the best practices that enable students to learn. Then, incentives can be given to states based on what we know works, instead of assuming a one shoe fits all approach. Which brings me to my second point.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have been studying which teaching practices work best. One of the key findings is that smaller classrooms produce better outcomes for students. Reason being; the teacher is able to give those students the attention they need. But if you’re going to give more money to states to hire more teachers and build more schools, you have to make sure the teachers being hired actually know how to teach. The Gates Foundation is looking at what the best teachers are doing now, so teachers of the future can learn from them.

One of the recommendations by the Gates Foundation is to take the students that are seriously struggling and put them into other areas where they can get the help they need. They are not specific on which students they are, only that the students who will be moved should be based on the criteria they develop. But let’s assume the students that are moved have learning disabilities.

In the past, I have written about learning disabilities, and while the research being done will indirectly help teachers teach these students, it is still not an issue that is being dealt with. Even the best teachers will have to adjust their methods so the student with a disability can properly learn the material. But shifting them to another room is not the answer. As long as they are willing to work hard, students with disabilities can be in the same classroom as his or her peers, but putting them in another room will only make them feel as if they are below everyone else.

There is no reason why Congress needs to politicize this issue. When NCLB was first enacted in 2001, there were obviously aspects of the bill both liberals and conservatives liked, otherwise, it would not have passed. In the State of the Union Address, President Obama should talk about the success this bill has had since it was first enacted and how it is a way to enact changes to a system that desperately needs it.

Many more studies need to be conducted, and this post does not even begin to scratch the surface of what is wrong with our education system. But once there is a compilation of methods that are proven to effectively teach students, incentives should be given to states to teach, and teach those policies to its teachers.

 

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Filed under Arne Duncan, Democrats, Education, Gates Foundation, Leanring Disabilities, NCLB, No Child Left Behing, Obama, President Obama, Republicans, Teach, Teachers

We Need Energy

If you want evidence that only funny characters and what they say dominate the news media, try figuring out the latest debate on taxes. The Senate “worked” this weekend on the nations taxes. But since the United States Senate requires hours of debate before a vote can actually take place, it makes it easy to waste a lot of time. So unless you are a C-SPAN2 junky (like me) you missed hours upon hours of our elected officials talking about how they were going to vote.

[Quick side note: Notice how I didn’t say debate to describe what the Senate was doing this weekend. The Senate doesn’t debate anymore. If you want to read a great debate, look up Second Reply to Hayne, given by Daniel Webster.]

But don’t worry, Senator’s don’t get paid overtime. After all that talk the only agenda that was accomplished was playing politics. Only two votes were taken and both sides knew they were going to fail. Democrats said they wanted to show Republicans only support the rich, and Republican’s refused to raise taxes even though they claim to want to tackle the deficit. Now it looks like all the Bush taxes will be extended. The good news is that unemployment benefits will also. The bad news is that even if Democrats somehow manage to raise some taxes, Wall Street is already trying to figure out how to not pay them.

What both sides forget though is that Americans aren’t looking for a show, they’re looking for things to get done. While building Noah’s Arc in Kentucky may seem funny, it is a policy that will create jobs and help the economy. It shows leadership and strength, which is exactly what people are looking for.

One of President Obama’s problems the past two years is that he let Republican’s control the debate on all the issues. Whether it was health care or Wall Street Reform, the Obama never used the bully pulpit to the extent other Presidents like FDR or Reagan did. Even though both President’s lost seats during their midterm elections, their base was ready to fight for them when they were up for reelection, and they won big.

The State of the Union speech is coming up soon. It will be a moment where the president can set the agenda and tone for the next two years he is in office. The first issue he should talk about is energy. This is an area where Republican’s and Democrats can make themselves happy. Obama already came out in favor of nuclear energy, which Republican’s have been pushing for years. Wind and solar energy have are already a growing industry. With the right incentives, creating new energy industries can create thousands of jobs that can’t be shipped off. The best part is that the technology for these new industries is being developed in America, and that means more exports which (according to standard models) will help America’s economy grow.

President Obama not only needs to create more energy, he also needs to show more energy. Letting the other side control the modern hyperbole of a debate, only takes away the victories he has already accomplished. We all know what a great communicator he can be, next year, it’s time to step up and speak loud.

 

 

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Filed under Democrats, Energy, Nuclear, President Obama, Republicans, Solar, Speech, State of the Union, Wind