Category Archives: Third Way

Politics, Policies, and the Debt Ceiling

There’s been a lot of talk on left leaning blogs about how President Obama has moved to the right on the current debt ceiling negotiations. He has asked for more spending cuts than Republicans, along with reforms to Social Security and Medicare, which would, reduce the countries long term deficits. But what is missing in their arguments is the political reality that the White House is facing.

People who have read my past writings know I don’t always agree with the actions Obama has taken. But as both political parties like to say “elections have consequences” and we’re seeing one of them now. Not raising the debt ceiling would be catastrophic for the country. Standard and Poors lowering America’s credit rating would be the last thing America would have to worry about. The stock market would drop more than it did in 2008, and interest rates would be at an all time high. So if you thought banks weren’t lending money now, people wouldn’t be able to take any money because there would be no way they would be able to pay it back.

It’s clear that the Tea Party Republicans are the ones actually in charge of the House of Representatives, and Speaker John Boehner has no influence over them. The numbers simply aren’t there to increase the debt ceiling. But since our constitution says Congress has the power of the purse, Obama needs to find a way to get a majority. Most posts I have read blame the reason on the White House asking for tax increases which Republicans have pledged not to do, but when have Republicans ever wanted to raise taxes? This is nothing new and the left shouldn’t be acting like it is. What the major difference is, is that no matter what the Tea Party will refuse to raise the debt ceiling. They don’t believe the August 2nd deadline is real, even though Eric Cantor does, and believe tax increases will hurt the economy. They are zealots when it comes to these issues and no one is going to be able to change their mind. It forced Obama to make concessions to real Republicans, not Tea Party members but Conservatives, to get them to vote for an increase on the debt ceiling.

Raising the ceiling is a hard vote because the vast majority of people don’t want their elected officials to do it. It is much easier to say, like the Tea Party is doing, that they will not raise it and have a better shot at winning reelection. With the lack of leadership in Congress it makes it a lot easier for this minority to have a bigger voice and come up with small sound bites.

Mitch McConnell, realizing the disaster that would take place if the debt ceiling isn’t raised, was going to allow Obama to raise ceiling on his own, and then have Congress vote whether to veto this action. But this would be a loss for both sides. A vote would still have to be taken forcing all members to be on the record of increasing America’s debt. Republicans show they weren’t able to govern, and Democrats show how little influence they have even though they still control the Senate.

Where Obama screwed up is that he had bad timing. Both sides agree we need entitlement reform, but if done right it can be a progressive issue. When the think tank Third Way came out with a proposal on how to talk about reforming Social Security and Medicare one of their main points was to make it about small adjustments. “Democrats should invert the traditional messaging on entitlement reform, which has tended to emphasize the heroic, major sacrifices being proposed, and thus serves only to make it more politically painful and scary.” By emphasizing tax increases for the rich, and reminding the people currently receiving these benefits this is not about the present but the future of these benefits, it would have been a lot easier for him to make changes to the system. But now that Obama is lumping small changes in these entitlements with raising the debt ceiling, it makes it a big deal and wound up scaring a lot of people. If he really wanted to figure out a way to make sure Social Security and Medicare would be there for future generations, he should have done it earlier.

After Nancy Pelosi convinced the President not to cut much spending, at his press conference today Obama said he would like to see the $2.4 trillion in cuts that were being discussed in the Biden group as part of the debt ceiling deal. The $4 trillion he originally asked for was never mentioned, which is a win for liberals. What is considered big now is making changes to the safety net, as Obama said today “$2.4 trillion without any revenue would cut too many programs that would hurt people” and he’s right. The policies he is proposing aren’t crazy, it’s responsible, and many other Presidents, or Presidents to be, have wanted to do the same thing. It was Senator Truman and his commission who cut programs in the military that were deemed a waste on tax payer money. President Clinton also cut programs in the mid 90’s in order to reduce the deficit and emphasize the programs that worked.

If the Democrats were still in control of Congress the debt ceiling would still be a contentious vote because so much money has been spent. But the arguments would be much different. There wouldn’t be Tea Party Republicans refusing to cooperate. Instead there would be Blue Dog Democrats hoping enough moderates are in favor of the package being voted on so they could vote no. What the Democrats and Blue Dogs have in common is that they wanted to keep the majority while the Republicans want to take it.

Those politics don’t make for good policy when America’s economic structure is on the line. Obama has finally been using the bully pulpit much more recently, as he knows it will benefit him. He did so right before the fundraising quarter ended by holding a press conference, and has done it again three more press conferences in the past eleven days in order to look like the mature one in the room, and it’s worked. His campaign raised a lot of money and polls show Americans like the way he is handling this situation. But he hasn’t come out with a plan on his own that would give his opponents ammunition. What Obama is betting on is that neither side wants to see what will happen August 3rd, and I hope he’s right.

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Filed under Boehner, Congress, debt ceiling, Deficit, Economics, Eric Cantor, President Obama, Third Way

The Politics Of Being Pro

If I were to ask you whether Albert Pujols was the best player in baseball, yes or no, I would only get a simple answer to what is a complicated question. Pujols was the leader in home runs, not to mention the top of virtually every baseball statistic there is within the last ten years. But he hasn’t hit a home run in over one hundred games and his batting average .269, way below his lifetime average of .329. You also have other players such as Jose Bautista who are now dominating the areas Pujols once did. And yes, this does have something to do with politics.

The same situation above also happens when you ask people if they consider themselves to be pro-life or pro-choice. Gallup recently came out with a poll that read “American’s Still Split Along Pro-Choice, Pro-Life Lines” with 49 percent saying they were pro-choice and 45 percent saying they were pro-life. While the poll asks people whether it is acceptable for a women to have an abortion under certain circumstances, it never asks which circumstances or why. It doesn’t help any policy maker decide how to vote on this issue, how his/her constituency feels about it, and what policies would they accept if enacted.

That is why Third Way, a Washington think tank, asked more questions to figure out what the American people really think about this contentious issue. In 2008 they came out with a study called A Consensus on the Abortion Debate—Reducing the need for abortion while preserving the right to have one. One of the questions they asked people was if they agreed with the statement “I support abortion rights, but I believe we can find common ground to reduce the need for abortions in America while still protecting a woman’s right to have one.” This was supported by 83 percent of Democrats, along with 50 percent of Republicans, including 43 percent of those who considered themselves pro-life.

The point here is that while there are plenty of Americans who feel strongly about this issue, the majority of them believe there is wiggle room. By asking people whether they are pro-choice or pro-life pushes them into a box to define themselves when neither definition fits. Both terms are nicely phrased slogans made up by the two sides to fit on advertisements and enable people to understand and explain where they are coming from. Every election cycle candidates are asked where they stand on abortion, but doing so doesn’t fully define their position as it wouldn’t for anyone else. The debate then lacks the serious conversation that is needed to move forward and only scratches the surface of the policy questions that need to be discussed.

Since it’s always important to start with the points where everyone agrees, the Third Way poll showed 72 percent of American’s favor enacting policies that will reduce “the number of abortions in America by preventing unintended pregnancies and supporting women who wish to carry their pregnancies to term.” That means abstinence only education is not a solution, but safe sex education and funding programs that will help women during and after their pregnancy is.

This particular Gallup poll was so close, if new, randomly chosen people were asked the same question the numbers could easily be flipped around. But even so, both sides tout when they see more American’s state they are on their side.

I remember watching Mike Huckabee do an interview (must have been The Daily Show) and he said something along the lines of “I believe a fetus is a living being, but I also believe we have to take care of it when it is born.” Now that he’s not running for President, I hope he and other major players won’t allow the health care debate to get overwhelmed with hyperbole, so that way the President and members of Congress can really say they represent the American people.

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Filed under abortion, Politics, pro-choice, pro-life, Third Way

>The Three Rules

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What was Robert Gibbs thinking? It’s almost been two years since President Obama has taken office and his administration still hasn’t learned you never state the reality, the obvious, or the truth.

The basic rules of Washington is to make yourself look better then everyone else, distort the other guys message, and never take responsibility unless people like what you’re taking responsibility for. By admitting defeat in the coming election, Gibbs broke all those rules and managed to piss off the entire Democratic Party at the same time.

Give him some slack though, he’s lasted a lot longer then some of his predecessors and when you’re talking to the media every day you’re bound to screw up at one point or another. Of course the reality (and what any political consultant in the district will tell you) is that the Democrats are going to lose seats in Congress this coming election, it is only a question of how many.
However, I don’t believe it is as obvious or gloomy as Gibbs had stated it on Meet The Press. The problem with the Democrats messaging is that they have been on the defensive, always trying to explain what they are doing. This is especially dangerous when people are anxious and need help. But the fact is this Congress has done a lot of good. Between health care reform and the new Wall Street regulations they have accomplished a lot, and when people look back on it, they will be grateful this reforms were passed.

But now it’s time to get back on the offensive. Get a clear message and don’t be afraid to defend your vote.
A recent poll conducted by the moderate think tank Third Way showed how bringing former President Bush back into the picture, voters are much more willing to vote for the Democrat.

David Broder wasn’t so convinced. He thought the Republicans could just bring back Reagan since the same poll showed most people also wanted more tax cuts. But don’t forget, this Congress gave 95% of Americas a tax cut and Reagan raised taxes in his first term.

When the two parties debated these issues this past Sunday on Meet The Press, the Democrats were clearly back on the offensive and had the upper hand. So while Gibbs may have been telling what he thought to be the obvious truth, there’s still a lot of time before the next election becomes the reality.

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Filed under Congress, Election 2010, Meet The Press, President Obama, Robert Gibbs, Third Way