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Barack Obama

I’m a pretty well-informed person.  I read news stories, blogs, op-eds, and get friends’ thoughts on the issues in America (and the world) in 2013 and beyond.  So I’m pretty well able to form my own opinions and articulate them relatively clearly.

What I don’t know is what the hell to do about them that will actually make a difference.

You know the problems as well as I do.  Here’s a partial list:

  • We have 25 people –including 20 young school children — killed by gun violence while in school and we still can’t do anything about it, because the NRA owns Congress.  So now the NRA, feeling its oats, is proposing placing armed guards in schools, and arming teachers.  The city council in Nelson, Georgia — and I swear I’m not making this up — voted 5-0 to make gun ownership mandatory.  Unless the members of the family opt out.  The level of idiocy in this is simply breathtaking.  How does any of this remotely make sense?
  • The manufactured deficit crisis, leading to the sequester:  This is directly related to the fact that most of our leaders (and I blame both Democrats and Republicans on this, but the Republicans are much, much worse on this) take really good care of the rich in this country.  After all, that’s where the campaign cash comes from, and those are the people who can afford the lobbyists.  Meanwhile, the little guy keeps getting the shaft.  The Republicans claim victory on the sequester, too, which is absolutely crazy.  At the same time they’re saying that the cuts are bad, bad, bad.  No wonder they’re so out of touch.  The latest news on this: Cancer clinics are turning away Medicare patients because of the sequester.  Can someone explain to me how this is good policy, or how it’s even humane?  Because I don’t see how it could be.  I can’t see how it’s moral or right, either, but that’s another story.
  • Women’s health and the right to choose: States continue to pare back a woman’s right to control her body.  I wrote a post on this last August.  I don’t want to re-litigate it here.
  • Republicans in North Carolina wants to declare a state religion.  Obviously, this is unconstitutional, but that people would actually try this in 2013 just boggles my mind.
  • The Obama Administration is considering a trade agreement with the European Union that would give corporations just what they need — more power (yes, I’m being sarcastic).  This is another one of those policy ideas that I just can’t understand.  Corporations have too much power in this world; they certainly don’t need more.
  • The heartbreaking struggle (If you haven’t seen the film that I’m linking to here, you should; it’s a documentary that aired on HBO … I was in tears watching it) that so many people are going through in  this country with long-term unemployment (while corporations sit on an unprecedented amount of cash, don’t hire enough people, and only manage to the bottom line).  The only mobility in this country is downward, unless you’re incredibly rich.  The middle class is being decimated.  It’s pretty plain that a strong middle class, and the poor actually being able to improve their situation, is vital to a strong economy.  All the growth is being concentrated with the rich.  None of it is “trickling down.”  Did we learn nothing from the last 30 years?  Did we learn nothing from the last Gilded Age?
  • The gerrymandered to death congressional districts that pretty well rigged elections for the next decade.
  • The voting rights act that is under review in the Supreme Court that could turn back the gains made there over the past 45 or 50 years.
  • Taxpayer-subsidized banks and oil companies.

I’ve left out all kinds of things in this list, I know — everything from gay rights, to protection for women against being raped and mandating that rape kits are actually processed, to equal pay for equal work, to the crumbling infrastructure, to the crippling student debt that so many are buried under … the list could go on and on.  America is in sorry shape.  (And I want to blast Republicans in general for their general wing-nuttery, but that’s another post.)

So my question is this:  What the hell do we do about it?  What would actually make a difference?  Because I really don’t know.

We saw the Occupy movement fall apart and fade away after some serious police brutality and the weather changing.  Newspapers are failing and being consolidated.  (I can’t find a citation right now, but I read that there’s something like four or five corporations that control nearly all of the media in this country.)

I’m really concerned about my son’s future.  How is he going to get ahead in this country when it’s on this path?

So can someone tell me something to do that will actually make a difference?

Update 4/12/13 — I had dinner with a friend last night.  She said that to change it, you have to run for office.  I pretty much dismissed that out of hand; I don’t really have much interest in running for office.  I don’t want to join to politician class and become part of the problem.  Smarter people than I am have tried and got sucked in.  I’m watching people like Elizabeth Warren pretty closely.  I hope she and others like her can make a difference.

I read an article today on Wonkblog and again I’m astounded by how much government aid the red states consume, yet still keep voting with the conservatives who want no to extremely small government.  This doesn’t quite compute for me.

The story that got me thinking today is one talking about the fantastic deal the Medicaid expansion portion of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is that so many red state governors want to, in effect, shaft their own citizens by turning down the sweet deal the federal government is offering.  This, because anything Obama does is bad.

Over the coming weeks and months, there’s going to be a new event in the Republican Party’s ongoing “No, I’m the most anti-Obamacare!” contest: refusing to participate in the law’s proposed Medicaid expansion. So far, the governors of FloridaSouth Carolina and Louisiana have already promised to do exactly that.

Ignore them. The deal the federal government is offering states on Medicaid is too good to refuse. And that’s particularly true for the red states. If Mitt Romney loses the election and Republicans lose their chance to repeal the Affordable Care Act, they’re going to end up participating in the law. They can’t afford not to.

Medicaid is jointly administered between states and the federal government, and the states are given considerable leeway to set eligibility rules. Texas covers only working adults up to 26 percent of the poverty line. The poverty line for an individual is $11,170. So, you could be a single person making $3,000 a year and you’re still not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid in Texas. That’s part of the reason Texas has the highest uninsured rate in the nation.

Massachusetts, by contrast, covers working adults up to 133 percent of the poverty line — partly due to a former governor whose name rhymes with Schmitt Schmomney. It’s a big reason it has the lowest uninsured rate in the nation.

I realize that Ezra Klein says to ignore the promises to refuse federal Medicaid money, but it’s hard to ignore those promises without wondering why those governors feel secure enough politically to say those kinds of things without fearing the loss of a lot of votes.

Why do the red states keep voting against their clear economic interest?  And why are they so happy to keep taking the blue states’ tax dollars that are paid into the government they say they hate?  The blue states are happy (ish) to pay those tax dollars, though, and are happy to help those less fortunate than themselves.  Why are the blue states reviled?

Some of it, no doubt, is the Fox News Effect.  People who are rightly angry at the status quo are told what to be angry about.  Over and over and over.  And they end up believing it.

By the end of my stint as a hired Fox News–watcher, my takeaway was, first, that the Democrats invented corruption.

Second, regardless of different formats or different anchors, whatever else was going on in the world of news, each show featured the same big story. When I watched, it was the growing controversy about Solyndra.

How do the news people at Fox know what the big story of the day is? you might ask. They just look at the earlier Fox News shows. If they flag it, it must be important. Anyway, by the time the night is finished, it will be the big story. In fact, by the next day, or sooner, it goes viral, showing up on other networks and in the newspapers. Opinion-makers elsewhere are reluctant not to use it for fear of being judged “out of touch.”

How does Fox get its big story of the day? Several ways. I remember one coup regarding the Department of Agriculture official who gave a speech that made her seem racist. A video excerpt had fallen into Fox’s hands over the transom, as they say, and by the end of the day of repetition on Fox and elsewhere the official had been fired. That was enterprising investigative journalism at its finest.

When the whole speech was played, however, it turned out that the fired official actually had been making a strong civil rights statement. Somebody had performed a contextectomy. It was a clear violation of the Geneva Convention on TV Journalism, which calls for telling the whole truth, not just half or a quarter.

How could that story have gotten legs? It wasn’t true. Yes, but the more you repeat something on TV, the truer it becomes.

Third, I learned how people are Foxified: it comes from watching too much Fox News over a period of time. They fall asleep watching reruns of O’Reilly and Hannity, starting at 11 or midnight. Instead of turning into a cockroach like the guy in the Kafka story, they wake up as a right-wing ideologue, or as we progressives call them, nuts.

Now I understand what Ailes and his diabolical mind-benders are up to. At the Fox News Channel, they treat the news as a script. A more apt slogan than “Fair & Balanced” would be “Fox News—Based on a True Story.”

The BBC says that people in red states resent having solutions force-fed to them.  This sounds plausible to me.

It might be tempting to put the whole thing down to what the historian Richard Hofstadter back in the 1960s called “the paranoid style” of American politics, in which God, guns and race get mixed into a toxic stew of resentment at anything coming out of Washington.

But that would be a mistake.

If people vote against their own interests, it is not because they do not understand what is in their interest or have not yet had it properly explained to them.

They do it because they resent having their interests decided for them by politicians who think they know best.

There is nothing voters hate more than having things explained to them as though they were idiots.

As the saying goes, in politics, when you are explaining, you are losing.

It’s clear that health care reform is the right thing for the country.  It’s also true that trying to help the poor is the proper thing to do.  I — and other liberals — think that this is a role for government.  I think we all agree that people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, but so many people don’t have bootstraps to pull themselves up by.

The red states keep getting redder — that’s where the bulk of the tea party is coming from. Fox News keeps on going on with its version of the facts and people keep buying it.

I don’t know how the Democrats get around that.  It’s obviously a messaging problem, one that the Democrats are going to have to solve.  I would suggest that Democrats make the Republicans feel like it’s their idea, but with healthcare reform, the Democrats used a Republican idea!  So how is this solved?

Life will get a lot tougher for women if the Republican Party gets its way.  The party seems to want to drag women and their health back to the dark ages.  I’m personally so disgusted with the troglodytes in the Republican Party that I can hardly believe it.  They’ve ticked me off in the past, but they’re so far overboard now that I think they’re trying to drag us back to the 13th century.

This is the same Republican Party that proclaims itself the party of small government.  Government is bad, according to them, and has too much power over citizens’ (and corporations, because corporations are people) lives.  So government must be made smaller so that it intrudes less than it currently does.  Regulate less!  Obama is bad!  (No matter what he does.)  This is simply  Republicans playing Machiavellian games in the name of religion, damn whoever gets hurt.

Here’s how Republicans are waging war on women in the past few weeks (they’re also waging war on gays, but that’s another story and another post):

  • The current conflagration pretty much started — this time — with the Susan G. Komen Foundation flap over Planned Parenthood.
  • Republicans promptly went ballistic over the whole contraception coverage requirement issue.  They said (and continue to say) that it goes too far, that religious organizations should be exempted.  Of course, this is a fallacious argument; the Obama Administration isn’t requiring that churches pay for contraception, only their health care arms.  (I’m explaining this badly.  But the point remains.)  They’re going all in and gearing up for a huge fight to deny women contraceptive coverage, coverage that insurance companies want to provide.  (Insurance companies do nothing out of the goodness of their heart.  They’re doing it because it’s cheaper than paying for pregnancy and childbirth.)  This is about religion for the Republicans.  Mitch McConnell admitted as much.
  • Rick Santorum’s main financial backer suggested that birth control is actually quite cheap, that “gals” could achieve that by putting an aspirin between their knees.
  • The Virginia House of Delegates passed a law requiring women who want to have an abortion to have a trans-vaginal ultrasound before those women are allowed to have their abortion.  Forcing something into a woman without her consent — even if she has to sign a consent form to have the ultrasound — is rape.  State-sanctioned rape.
  • Republicans on the House Oversight Committee held a hearing today on birth control.  Not one woman was allowed to testify, despite showing up for the hearing.  Nearly all Democratic women on the panel walked out in protest.
  • Not one Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to renew the Violence Against Women Act, originally passed in 1994.  This kind of law should pass easily.  But it may not even be able to break a certain Republican filibuster.
  • Oklahoma’s senate passed a personhood act, which states that life begins at conception.  This would effectively ban all abortions.

(All this, and I didn’t even mention Rick Santorum and that Fox News commentator whose name escapes at the moment me talking about women serving on the front lines in the military.  Santorum talked about women’s feelings — and men’s feelings that they will have to protect those women.  The Fox News commentator said that women should expect to be raped.  No, that’s only if they go to Virginia and need an abortion.)

Polls show that women — including Catholic women — use birth control.  They want the choice, and they want insurance to pay for it.  I — and about half of Americans — think that a woman should have the right to choose to terminate a pregnancy without onerous requirements imposed by the government.  I don’t want an abortion, but I also would not restrict another woman’s right to make that choice.  Who am I to choose for her?  Who are conservatives to impose what they want on everyone else?

This is an all-out Republican war on women.  There’s no other way to read this.  None.  It’s about nothing other than religion.  We’re supposed to live in a free country.  We have freedom of religion, which also means freedom from religion.  That means that no group is supposed to be allowed to impose its religion on another group.  Imposing religion on the rest of the country seems to be what Republicans are trying to do.  If people like Rick Santorum get their way, we’ll be living in a fundamentalist Christian theocracy.

What I don’t get is that the conservatives’ war on women and women’s health is not only bad policy, it’s really bad politics.  I mean, think this through.  The population is a little more than 50% female.  How does alienating a large percentage of women further Republican electoral goals in the future?  They might win today, but women are not stupid and will remember this.

It’s way past time for women, and people who love women, to stand up and call a halt to this.  It’s time to vote the Republicans persecuting women out of office.  If there aren’t acceptable alternative candidates, it’s time to run for office instead.  Women need to stand up and be counted.  It’s time to call a halt to this disgusting misogyny of which conservatives are guilty.

I’ve spent most of this evening watching the State of the Union and the Republican response.  Here are some thoughts on those:

The State of the Union

  • I liked the agenda that President Obama laid out.  That’s not much of a surprise, really, for those who know me or who have been reading the sporadic posts on this blog.  (I hope to post more as the election gets closer.  We’ll see if I can make that happen.)  The fact is that we do have a major problem with the economic equality in this country.  The middle class is threatened.  The deck is stacked in favor of the very wealthy.  Obama is right when he says that we have to level the playing field.  We should be giving tax breaks to companies that move manufacturing back to the United States, and we should penalize those (through the tax code) that offshore jobs and profits.  These are common sense steps that we should have taken long ago.
  • We do have to get the money out of politics.  A constitutional amendment is needed, though.  Bernie Sanders’ proposed amendment is a great place to start.  (Actually, I think it should be passed as is.)
  • I liked Obama’s confrontational tone.  The Fix called it “Confrontation Wrapped in Kumbaya”.  I like that; it’s an apt description.  Obama fully played on the fact that Congress’s approval rating is extremely low, lecturing them about their inaction.  He promised action where Congress has been inactive.  He can do a lot through executive order, but that is not as good as legislation.  He demanded that Congress send him bills this year and promised to sign them.
  • I don’t have a lot of hope that Congress will actually act, though, the cameras kept panning to shots of stony-faced Republicans who seemed to want to be anywhere else.
  • The Republicans didn’t seem to take kindly to that scolding tone, and cleared out of the chamber pretty quickly.  I enjoyed that.  One never likes being lectured to, especially when one knows that the person doing the lecturing is right.

The Republican Response

Mitch Daniels, the governor of Indiana delivered the Republican response.  I was struck by a few things.

  • The use of the phrase “loyal opposition”.  I see a lot of opposition in the Republican agenda during Obama’s presidency.  But I have not seen a lot of loyal.  When the Senate minority leader’s stated goal is to make Obama a one-term president, how is that loyally caring for the people’s business?  How is the president supposed to work to find a middle ground, when there isn’t any to begin with?
  • Mitch Daniels talking about budget math is really pretty rich.  Daniels was President Bush’s budget director.  A strong case can be made that the deficit and debt issues that the Republicans care so much about now can be laid at the feet of President Bush and his tax cuts.  And then fighting two wars.
  • The claim that Steve Jobs was a jobs creator was embellished, to say the least.  Apparently Daniels missed the New York Times article from January 21.  Steve Jobs created jobs, all right, but Daniels neglected to mention that most of those were overseas.

I see a lot more of the same coming from Republicans.  They still don’t want to work with President Obama, despite the record low approval rating that Congress enjoys.  So President Obama will need to do what he can via executive order, and he’ll have to go out on the road and really sell his plan.  And he’s going to have to pick a couple of things he absolutely has to have and fight for them in Congress the way he hasn’t the past three years.

The Republican presidential field is remarkable for one reason.  They’re doing the best they can to distinguish themselves in how unremarkable they are.  I’ve talked about some of this before, but with the events of the past few days in this race, I need to talk about it again.

EJ Dionne wrote about this in his column today.  (And that’s before Herman Cain’s truly impressive gaffe on Libya today.  If you watch the video of that one, you’re left wondering if he knows anything at all.)

Dionne made some points today about the lack of depth in the field.  That it wasn’t Perry’s brain cramp (which can happen to anyone and is a little bit forgivable), but what’s really bad is his lack of depth.

What really matters is the subject that sent Perry’s brain into lockdown. He was in the middle of describing sweeping changes in the federal bureaucracy closely connected to his spare vision of American government. One presumes a candidate for president ponders such proposals carefully, discusses them with advisers and understands their implications.

Forgetting an idea at the heart of your program, in other words, is not the same as forgetting a phone number, a friend’s name, a football score or the title of a recently read book.

Perry’s memory lapse showed that he wasn’t asserting anything that he is truly serious about because he is not serious about what government does, or ought not to do. For him, governing seems a casual undertaking.

“And I will tell you,” he declared, “it’s three agencies of government when I get there that are gone: Commerce, Education and the — what’s the third one there? Let’s see.”

Yes, let’s see what “gone” might imply. Would Perry end all federal aid to education? Would he do away with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the part of the Commerce Department that, among other things, tracks hurricanes? Energy was the department he forgot. Would he scrap the department’s 17 national labs, including such world-class facilities as Los Alamos, N.M., Oak Ridge, Tenn., or — there’s that primary coming up — Aiken, S.C.?

I’m not accusing Perry of wanting to do any of these things because I don’t believe he has given them a moment of thought. And that’s the problem for conservatives. Their movement has been overtaken by a quite literally mindless opposition to government. Perry, correctly, thought he had a winning sound bite, had he managed to blurt it out, because if you just say you want to scrap government departments (and three is a nice, round number), many conservatives will cheer without asking questions.

“He hasn’t given them a moment of thought.”  Doesn’t that just nail the problem with the GOP today?

It is a brainless field.  They brainlessly spout off talking points (to huge cheers, mind) about the evils of government, about how taxes and spending and regulation must be cut, about foreign policy (see Herman Cain’s moment from today), or torture (both Michele Bachmann and Herman Cain say that they would waterboard people again).  They all attack science and intellectual work as evil liberal plots.  And conservative voters — even those who should know better — lap it up.

It’s a frightening prospect.  Someone from this field — my guess is that it will be Romney — will be the nominee, and someone else from this field will be the running mate.  That person has a pretty decent chance at beating President Obama next November.  Others in this field may be in line for Cabinet positions.  These are the people who would run the country.  And they haven’t thought anything they say they want to do through.  It’s simply about being the president, not actually governing if they win.  How can that not be scary?

I’ll leave off with Dionne’s last paragraph:

There are honorable exceptions: Bill Bennett, for one, and to some degree — hard to admit, I know — Karl Rove. But that so many other members of a movement theoretically devoted to traditional values on sexual matters would eagerly jump into this mess on Cain’s side speaks volumes about its condition. To paraphrase Bennett from another context, where’s the outrage about a conservatism that is losing both its intellectual moorings and its moral compass?

What is it with the Republicans these days?  I’m talking, specifically, about the Republican presidential field.  It’s absolutely nuts.  You know it’s really nuts when Pat Robertson, of all people, is saying that it’s bad.  (I mean, can you believe this?  This is the guy who blames floods and other natural disasters on gay people.  You can’t make this stuff up.)

The one guy who could actually be elected from that group has to tack so far to the right to get past the wing nuts that have taken over the party that he’s making campaign ad after campaign ad for Obama in the general election.  The other guy who’s actually reasonable can’t gain any traction because he’s reasonable.  The nominal frontrunner (depending on which poll you’re reading) is a mediocre pizza chain executive who’s never held office.

I feel like I’ve stepped into the Twilight Zone and am waiting for Rod Serling to step out of the shadows and tell me it’s all okay.  But of course he never does because this is reality.  Surreal and real at the same time.  Go figure.  Such is the state of the Republican Party as it tries to find anyone other than Romney for the nomination next year.

Let’s briefly examine the field:

  • Mitt Romney – this is the one guy who could beat Obama next year.  But the wing nuts are driving him so far to the right that he’s looking more and more like a wing nut too.  He just hangs in and hopes to be still standing when the latest flavor of the week flames out.  And not be so far to the right that he can’t come back for the general election.  You just know Obama can’t wait to run some of the things Romney has said in this primary as campaign ads in the general election next year.
  • Jon Hunstman – he could probably beat Obama next year, too, but he can’t get any traction because he worked in a Democratic administration (as ambassador toChina), and has no money, probably also because he worked in a Democratic administration.
  • Herman Cain – the mediocre pizza chain executive.  All he can talk about is 9-9-9, even though it’s been repeatedly shown to belong in the pile of ordure it came from.  He’s polling so well precisely because the Republican Party can’t stand Romney.
  • Rick Perry – this is the guy who touts his C average in college.  He’s trying to make himself look more attractive by making himself look stupid.  He’s also the guy with the racist name on his ranch.  And the one who tried to bring back the “birther” controversy in Parade magazine, of all places.  (Does anyone else mistake that magazine for coupons, as Jon Stewart notes?  I always toss it, unread.)  He’s also the candidate who said that appearing in debates was a mistake.  Pardon me for thinking it’s somewhat important to see how candidates think on their feet.  A debate is a friendly venue compared to sparring with some world leaders.
  • Newt Gingrich – Mr. Family Values himself.  This is the former speaker of the House, who resigned from Congress in disgrace, attempting a comeback like Richard Nixon’s.  He’s also the stand-up guy who informed his wife of divorce proceedings while she was in the hospital.  (Gingrich disputes this, of course.)  I always admired his intellect – he always seemed to be the smartest of this motley bunch – but he seems to think that the way ahead is to deny established science.
  • Michele Bachmann – Ms. Wing Nut herself.  I can’t believe I was saying that we needed to take her seriously.  Well, those words certainly weren’t true.  I guess the old adage about giving them enough rope is true.

Let’s be real here.  The economy is horrid and has remained so for a long time.  People are rightly upset about that.  Obama gets the blame for that because he’s the president, and the president gets the blame for everything.  Kind of like an oldest child.  And because of that, President Obama is in a tough fight for reelection.  He’s beatable.  But the Republicans are handing the election to him.  I’m an Obama supporter, so I don’t like saying or reading that he’s vulnerable.  But he is.  The election in 2012 is going to be hugely important.  We have real problems in this country.  I see Obama trying to address them, Republicans trying to stop him, and then blaming him for not doing anything.  And the presidential candidates are doing the same thing.

I think the Republican Party needs to grow up.  They claim to be the adults in the room, but what I see is a group of people who childishly deny something despite the facts.  (Just watch The Daily Show for myriad examples.  Jon Stewart and his staff are masterful at putting that together.)  What happened to the intellectuals of the GOP?  Did they all check out when Bill Buckley shuffled off the mortal coil?

The Republican Party has taken a real slide in intellectualism lately.  They’re all smart enough, but seem to want to be stupid.  Constantly.  It makes one truly despair for the future.

This post could be about DADT ending today.  It’s about time for that, too.  But that, while pretty amazing in itself, is not quite as amazing as President Obama growing a spine and forcing the Republicans to do what he wants.  I hope that continues.

It’s about time President Obama stood up for what he believes in.  It was far, far past time for him to find his backbone and stop trying to compromise with people who have absolutely no interest in working with him.

Obama went to Washington trying to stop business as usual, end the partisanship, and actually do some good in Washington.  This is what he campaigned on, anyway.  Yes, some of the choices were mistimed.  The health care bill should have waited while the economy really recovered.  But it takes two to tango, as the saying goes, and the Republicans don’t want to work with Obama.

Today, though, Obama gave a speech in the Rose Garden.  He called the Republicans out, promising a veto if the bill that comes out of the super committee doesn’t contain new revenues.  He finally(!) stood up for something he believes in.

President Obama struck a combative tone on Monday as called for $1.5 trillion in new tax revenue as part of a proposal to tame the nation’s rocketing federal debt, drawing a sharp contrast with the Republican vision and resetting the terms of the economic debate in Washington this fall.

In a defiant Rose Garden appearance, Obama threatened to veto any plan to tame the debt that does not pair cuts to Medicare and Medicaid with increases in taxes on the rich.

“We can’t just cut our way out of this hole,” Obama said. “It’s going to take a balanced approach.”

Combined with his call this month for $450 billion in new stimulus, the proposal represents a more populist approach to confronting the nation’s economic travails than the compromises he advocated earlier this summer.

It is also diametrically opposed to many of the views supported by Republicans, who want to balance the nation’s books mainly through cutting spending, particularly in Medicare and Medicaid.

Republicans argue that Obama’s plan to tax the rich is a divisive political strategy. But Obama rejected that view Monday.

“This is not class warfare,” Obama said. “It’s math.”

In doing so, he finally took steps to bring back his base.  More importantly, Obama also took steps to bring back independents, which he will need for reelection next year.

[S]hows that the American public overwhelmingly supports higher taxes on the wealthy as part of a package to cut the deficit. The margins are staggering: the NYT poll shows a majority of 74 – 21; even Rasmussen shows a majority of 56 – 34. What the president proposed this morning is simply where the American people are at. If he keeps at it, if he turns his administration into a permanent campaign for structural fiscal reform, I don’t see how he loses the argument.

It really is about time.

We knew the “super” committee in Congress to trim the deficit was doomed to fail before it even got started.  That outcome just got a little more certain today.  Speaker Boehner gave a speech today.

Greg Sargent culled two sentences from the speech that sum it all up.

  1. If we want to create a better environment for job creation, politicians of all stripes can leave the “my way or the highway” philosophy behind.
  2. Tax increases, however, are not a viable option for the Joint Committee.
Doesn’t that just put paid to any chance the committee had of doing anything?  You have to credit the Republicans with sticking to their guns.  But all they’re doing is screwing over the rest of us in their quest to keep the rich from paying anything more in taxes.  And screwing us all over in their quest to keep Obama to one term.
The Republicans keep saying that all we have to do is cut taxes and regulation and the economy, freed from its bonds, will come roaring back.  The problem is that trickle-down economics doesn’t work.  Obama’s job plan might help.  But it looks dead on arrival in Congress.
When are the Republicans going to stop with the blatant obstructionism and actually govern?

I have a few thoughts about the jobs bill that President Obama sent to Congress this morning.

  • Why didn’t Obama make this speech and propose this bill two and a half years ago?  He would actually have gotten it passed.  But he got caught up in passing health care.  That was also worthy, but much less urgent than stimulating the economy and putting people back to work.
  • It’s also nice to see Obama show a bit of a spine.  He’s let the Republicans set the agenda and control the debate for quite awhile.  It’s about time Obama realized that he’s the president and has a huge megaphone.  He can drown out the Republicans and make them smaller if only he’d actually do it.
  • It’s a good bill.  It’s not perfect, but what would be perfect?  It would put a lot of people back to work.  Working people spend money and pay taxes.  Deficits are reduced when people pay taxes.  In any case, deficits are long term problems.  Unemployment is a short term issue.  We have to get the economy off the dime and get people working again.
  • The bill is paid for by new taxes on the rich.  Republicans immediately complained that this would tax the very people who would create the jobs.  This overlooks a couple of things.  First, most jobs are created by small business.  Most of them aren’t really rich.  Second, this bill is paid for.  That’s saying something in this age, where interest rates are historically low and the cost of borrowing is incredibly cheap.  It also bows to the reality that Republicans don’t want more deficits.  I think that’s misguided right now, but okay.
  • Does anyone else find it ironic that Speaker Boehner’s spokesman, Michael Steel, complained that Obama’s bill “wasn’t offered in that bipartisan spirit”?  I think that’s pretty rich, actually.  Absolutely nothing the Republicans have done since President Obama was elected, and especially since the last election, has remotely been bipartisan.  So spare me that one, Mr. Speaker.
So let’s get this bill passed.  I agree with President Obama.  Pass it as is.  Or he should take it to the people.  In fact, he should start doing that tomorrow morning.  He gives a great speech.  He needs to give some more now.

I’m disgusted with the Republicans’ lack of respect for President Obama.  Like him or not, he is the president, duly elected by the people on November 4, 2008.  Even if your stated goal is to make President Obama a one-term president, you still need to show him and his office the respect they deserve.

Several Republican lawmakers are blowing off the speech.  Congressman Joe Walsh (Illinois) and Sen. David Vitter (Louisiana) had previously announced that they would not attend.  Senator Jim DeMint, Republican from South Carolina, is the latest say he’s not going to he’s not going to Obama’s speech to Congress tonight.  DeMint is “sick and tired of speeches” and won’t go because the president didn’t send over an advance, written plan.

Obama has no obligation to send him an advance copy of the plan.  DeMint, conversely, does have an obligation to be there tonight. 

Also, Speaker Boehner wouldn’t return Obama’s calls during the debt ceiling hostage taking.

Nobody returned the president’s call.

On Thursday afternoon, President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) had discussed a sweeping agreement that would have averted default on the national debt. On Thursday evening, Obama called back to talk more.

The president left a message, and waited.

The tone in Washington has gotten worse and worse during the Obama presidency.  I’m sure that Obama bears some of this blame.  But the Republicans are more disrespectful than I’ve ever seen.  I don’t want to call it racism, but can someone give me a better alternative? 

 These are matters of common courtesy for the office even if you abhor the man.  When the President of the United States calls, you drop what you’re doing and get on the phone.  When the President of the United States gives a speech to a joint session of Congress, you drop what you’re doing, you get yourself there, and you act like you’re listening.  Anything less is blatant disrespect to the man and the office.

Until the tone improves – and that starts with respect – nothing will change in Washington.  Gridlock will continue.  Nothing will get done.  And America will continue as a nation in decline.

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