Monday, April 30, 2012

Republicans Wage Losing War On Defense

The Republican Party has decided that one of the keys to victory in the November election is to wage war on the President’s record of waging war.  Their latest hissy fit comes on the heels of a newly released campaign video featuring Bill Clinton lavishly praising President Obama’s “courageous” decision to go after Osama bin Laden.  Republicans are appalled that the President’s campaign would dare to use the success of this mission for political purposes.  Romney senior campaign advisor Ed Gillespie was on Meet the Press Sunday going on and on about how the video was nothing more than a cheap political tactic taken on by a weakened campaign.  In truth the video is nothing more than the President walking through a door that the Republicans have generously opened for him.
For some unfathomable reason the Republicans feel that attacking the President’s foreign policy record is a winning strategy.  They have criticized his efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria and Iran.  Most recently they have railed against his response to the incarceration of activist Chen Guangcheng.  They have tried to portray Obama as a weak President who coddles our enemies.  They have warned that his policies have made America “less safe.”  Their assertions and criticisms are not only factually incorrect but they have allowed the President the opportunity to reiterate his foreign policy bona fides over and over again.
Factually, there hasn’t been a more hawkish President in decades.  Obama increased the troop levels in Afghanistan and led the international coalition that ousted Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.  He has ordered crippling sanctions against Iran and Syria and has ordered a carrier fleet into the Persian Gulf to ward off any Iranian thoughts of cutting off the flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz.  He has ordered drone strikes in at least seven countries including our “ally” Pakistan.  He has ramped up special ops efforts to capture or kill Al Qaeda terrorists.  And lest we forget…he ordered the raid that took out bin Laden…a decision that had it failed would have cost him his Presidency.  Even during his acceptance speech for the Nobel Peace Prize he talked about the fact that certain times call for going to war.  This is not a President who shies away from taking military action.
Historically the Republican Party has worn the mantle of “Defender of the Homeland.”  They have ceded that title to this Democrat President…and they desperately want it back.  But their criticism of his record flies in the face of the facts.  And when they try to paint themselves as being more to the right of this President they fall into disfavor with a war weary nation.  It is an argument they cannot win.
If Republicans want to play the “economic” hand and talk about a sluggish economy, high unemployment and record deficits…they are holding three aces.  But if they continue to play the “weak on defense” card…they got nothing.              


Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why Would Any Woman Vote Republican?

Mitt Romney has a problem with women…politically speaking that is.  He is currently sitting on the wrong side of an 18 point gender gap.  It seems that not a week goes by without Romney or his Republican classmates doing or saying something that calls into question their support of women’s issues. 
Take the current kerfuffle over fair pay.  Republicans would like to repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; a bill which helps women to overcome wage discrimination in the workplace.  It was the very first piece of legislation signed by newly elected President Obama.  Mitt Romney was asked if he would have signed the bill.  Romney dodged the question.
Given Romney’s less than courageous response to this seemingly softball question; and considering the Republican Party’s activities regarding women’s rights on both the national and state levels, we just have to ask…
…why would any clear minded woman support Mitt Romney and his Republican Party?
Are you one of the 90+% of women who use contraceptives?  The Republican base would outlaw them.
Do you believe that you and your doctor should decide matters pertaining to your physical and mental well being?  Or do you believe that the GOVERNMENT should decide what legal medical procedures you can and cannot have?  Do you believe the GOVERNMENT should be able to mandate that you undergo medically unnecessary procedures?  Republicans have proffered over 900 such restrictive and invasive bills and there are over 500 such Republican sponsored laws currently on the books.
Are you a woman who believes in the Republican mantra of a small, limited and less intrusive government?  Then how do you justify the above?
Are you a woman of limited financial means…perhaps a single mom with mouths to feed?  Mitt Romney supports the Ryan Budget Plan…a proposal that would reduce the debt and deficit by gutting education, welfare, food stamps, aid to dependent children, Pell grants and a host of other programs that women count on to support their families.  Romney calls the Ryan Plan…”marvelous.”
Are you a woman of substantial means…perhaps a corporate executive and/or member of the top 1% in income?  Economists say that under the Obama administration you have seen your income rise at historic levels.  In fact you are earning more now than you were before the economy crashed.  Romney and the Republicans say Obama’s policies are not working. But you are living proof that that just isn’t true.  You are doing very, very well.  Why would you want to stop the gravy train?  Why would you want to change anything?  Why would you want to return to the same Bush era policies that trashed the economy?
Are you a professional woman?  Do you believe that you got where you are through hard work and effort?  Do you believe that you should receive the same pay for your efforts as your male co-workers?  Republicans want to repeal the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  Romney has refused to offer his opinion.  
Are you elderly, retired or a woman approaching retirement in the next decade?  Are you counting on Medicare and Medicaid to be there in your retirement years?  Mitt Romney and the Republican Party would end Medicare and Medicaid as you know it.  First they will freeze or cut benefits.  Then they’ll turn Medicaid into a block grant system and let each state administer the program as they see fit.  As for Medicare…they’ll give you a voucher for $X dollars.  Hopefully that will be enough for you to purchase sufficient medical insurance, pay any co-pays, satisfy any deductibles and pay for your prescriptions.  If the voucher proves to be insufficient…you are on your own.
Are you a lesbian?  Do you believe that if you find someone that you want to spend your life with you should be allowed to marry?  Do you believe that you are an American citizen and as such entitled to the same constitutional rights as any heterosexual individual or couple?  Do you believe that your sexual orientation should not preclude you from serving in the military?  Mr. Romney and his Republican friends disagree with you on every level.  In fact many of them consider your sexual orientation aberrant.
The Tea Party movement swept Republicans into office in 2010.  Since day one they have initiated  a tsunami of legislative proposals designed to restrict the rights of women.  Laws that were passed decades ago are once again being challenged.  Their agenda is quite clear. 
So given all of the above we have to wonder why any clear minded woman would support Mitt Romney and the Republican Party.  Why is the gender gap only 18 points?
Just asking!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Andrew Ross Sorkin, Editor-At-Large of Dealb%k and author of the best seller, “Too Big To Fail”, reports that in a rare case of clear minded thinking “Citigroup shareholders rebuffed a $15 million dollar compensation package for CEO Vikram S. Pandit, marking the first time that shareholders have united in opposition to outsized compensation at a financial giant…The votes are part of the Dodd-Frank financial overhaul that mandates that public companies include “say on pay” votes for shareholders to express their opinions about compensation.”  The vote is not binding but sends a clear message to management.  Enough is enough!
Citigroup is a prime example of everything that went wrong in the financial calamity of 2007-2008.  Poor management, excessive compensation corruption…you name it they did it.  “Citigroup was terribly managed, and whatever could be done wrong, they did wrong.” said David Dreman money manager for $400,000 worth of Citigroup shares.  Yet in spite of management’s irresponsible behavior the Citigroup directors recommended a $15 million dollar compensation package for their executive officer.  “CEO’s deserve good pay but there is good pay and there is obscene pay.” said Brian Wenzinger, a principal at Aronson Johnson Ortiz, a money management firm that voted against the pay package.
Excessive compensation packages have been an issue in this country since the dotcom bubble in the nineties.  Buoyed by the inflated profits generated by tech companies who made millions out of thin air, chief executives have seen their earnings skyrocket while the average wages of working class Americans have grown stagnant.  Execs who run companies into the ground get golden parachutes while working stiffs get pink slips.  While we don’t object to executive officers being handsomely compensated for a job well done; the thought of paying $15 million to the chief executive of a bank whose mismanagement and corruption was at the very epicenter of the financial crash is beyond the pale.
Economists say that corporate America is generating greater profits today than they did in the years prior to the crash.  Corporate executive salaries continue to skyrocket while the middle class suffers through declining wages and rampant unemployment.  We can only hope that the actions of the Citicorp shareholders mark the beginning of a societal movement toward fairness and accountability.
Next up…the Bank of America’s shareholder’s meeting on May 9.                  

Monday, April 16, 2012

This & That...

The Darth Vader of the Republican Party is at it again.  Merely three weeks after undergoing a heart transplant former Vice President Dick Chaney took on the President.  Addressing the Wyoming Republican Party convention, the erasable curmudgeon offered a full throated criticism of the Obama administration; referring to the President’s first term as an “unmitigated disaster”.  Unfortunately, Mr. Chaney’s suffers from a severe case of memory loss and his recent surgery did nothing to dampen his vivid imagination.  Historically each administration shoulders both the good and bad that occur during their years in office.  A quick review of the events during Mr. Chaney’s days of prowling the White House corridors are less than flattering.  The unwarranted war in Iraq… the unwinnable war in Afghanistan...the market crash on Wall Street…the near destruction of the auto industry…skyrocketing unemployment…the loss of 750,000 private sector jobs/month…turning a $200 billion surplus into a $5 trillion deficit…and last but certainly not least, allowing the worst terrorist attack on American soil in our history.  If Mr. Chaney feels that it is appropriate to blame the Obama Administration for all of the country’s current ailments, then that is certainly his right.  But he should then assume responsibility for everything that occurred during his watch as well.  History will decide whose administration deserves to be called an “unmitigated disaster.”  Our guess is that history will not be kind to Mr. Chaney.
Taliban insurgents signaled the beginning of the “fighting season” striking the Afghan capital and several other cities in a series of coordinated attacks.  The onslaught, which lasted 17 hours, targeted the US, UK and German embassies as well as a multitude of government buildings and NATO bases.  The offensive offers undeniable proof that US efforts to secure the country have failed.  They also provide a clear picture of what is in store for the next country foolish enough to invade this desolate piece of real estate.  It has been ten years.  Bin Laden is dead.  It’s time to bring the troops home.
The USA Today is reporting that a growing number of firstborns in the US have unmarried parents.  The report states that “the number of first births to women living with male partner jumped from 12% in 2002 to 22% in 2006-10…an 83% increase.”  The report goes on to say that the big jump since 2002 “is likely because of the recession which was at its height from 2007-2009.”  “I think it is economic shock” says Karen Benjamin Guzzo, a sociologist at Bowling Green University.  “Marriage is an achievement that you enter into when you are ready.  But in the meantime, life happens.  You form relationships.  You have sex.  You get pregnant.  In a perfect world, they would prefer to be married, but where the economy is now, they’re not going to be able to get married, and they don’t want to wait to have kids.”  We understand that our society no longer views “unmarried pregnancy” in the same manner prevalent a few short decades ago.  The time when our grandparents placed a certain stigma on unmarried pregnancies has long since passed.  But we don’t understand the correlation between a recessionary economy and an unmarried pregnancy.  But where the economy is now, they’re not going to be able to get married” just doesn’t make sense.  If two people are cohabitating and can afford food, clothing and rent…can’t they afford to purchase a marriage license?  We are not making a moral judgment here…but let’s call this what it is.  A growing number of people across all economic and educational demographics find it acceptable to cohabitate and have sex prior to marriage…a sort of trail arrangement.  Some would call this the result of a degradation of morals in our society.  Others see it simply as a common sense approach to making a lifelong commitment.  Whatever!  Let’s just call it what it is.  People make choices.  The result of these choices is an increase in unmarried pregnancies and the responsibilities that come with parenthood.  If two people can afford the necessities of life surely they can afford a marriage license.  Condoms are not all the expensive either.  The economic argument doesn’t hold water.                      

Friday, April 13, 2012

Silence Often Speaks Louder Than Words

“His wife actually never worked a day in her life.”
With those few words Democratic strategist and CNN pundit Hilary Rosen unleashed a firestorm that is being played out on the front page of every major newspaper.
Ms. Rosen’s comments were intended to bring into question Ann Romney’s qualifications as an economic advisor to her husband, presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  The candidate was quoted as saying that his wife Ann had informed him that women really care about economic issues.  Ms. Rosen stated on CNN that Romney should not be relying on his wife for guidance on economic issues that affect women because as a wealthy stay at home mom she lacks credibility.
The Romney campaign wasted no time jumping all over Rosen’s comments.  Think shark feeding frenzy.  Even Ann Romney got into the act; opening her own twitter account to defend her decision to stay at home and raise five sons. 
The Romney campaign’s reaction comes as no surprise.  They are facing an 18 point gender gap that seriously imperils their chances of winning the oval office.  Hilary Rosen lobbed them a softball and they jumped all over it.
The Democrats shifted into “damage control”.  They quickly sent out the heavy hitters to distance themselves from Rosen’s remarks.  David Axelrod, Michele Obama and the President himself spoke out in defense of women who make the choice to stay at home.
Women all over this country struggle with the balancing act between stay at home mom and working mother.  For some, economics enters into the equation.  For others it is simply a matter of personal choice.  Regardless of their choice many women face unfair criticism and suffer from overwhelming guilt.   Women have the right to make that decision.  Their choice should be respected.  Neanderthals who believe otherwise should walk a mile in their shoes.  The fact that a cable news pundit can bring the twenty four hour news cycle to a grinding halt; sparking a debate that should have been resolved decades ago, is troubling.
But from our prospective there is a bigger news story here; one that stems from the response to Rosen’s comments.
As stated before, the Democrats came out in force against the comments of Hilary Rosen.  The President personally articulated his support of Ann Romney and women all over America who make that difficult choice.  Perhaps it was just politics; but we got the sense that the President personally felt that Rosen’s comments were wrong and needed to be addressed.
So how did Mitt Romney respond when faced with a similar situation? 
Where was Mitt Romney when pundit Rush Limbaugh publically referred to Georgetown coed Sandra Fluke as a “slut” and a “prostitute” for speaking out in favor of women’s rights?  Limbaugh’s advertisers fled like rats from a burning building; but where was Romney?  Silent! 
Now you might argue that Romney does not feel the need to speak out in response to every half baked comment uttered by a pundit.  Fair enough! So where was Mitt Romney just two days ago when a duly elected member of his own party, Republican Congressman Adam West, accused 78-81 Democratic members of Congress of being card carrying members of the Communist Party; a party that was responsible for the murder of hundreds of millions of innocent people.  Silent!
The President understood that Hilary Rosen, a Democratic supporter, made comments that were offensive not only to his opponent’s wife but to tens of millions of Americans.  He understood the sensitivity of those comments and he had the courage and common sense to speak his mind.  When faced with similar situations Mitt Romney has chosen a less controversial course of action…
His silence speaks volumes.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

Lady Justice Stands A Bit Taller Today

Forty six days ago George Zimmerman shot and killed an unarmed Trayvon Martin.  These facts are not in dispute.
Forty six days ago the Sanford Florida police department took Mr. Zimmerman into custody.  Upon hearing Mr. Zimmerman’s account of the incident they believed Mr. Zimmerman had acted in self defense within the terms of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Within hours of the shooting they released Mr. Zimmerman and publically announced that no charges would be filed.
Forty six days later Special Prosecutor Angela Corey arrested Mr. Zimmerman and charged him with second degree murder; a charge which could put Zimmerman in jail for the rest of his life.
Over the past forty six days this case has been tried in the court of public opinion.  The public scrutiny and media attention has been intense. Chief among the questions being asked is how the Sanford Police could allow a man who shot and killed an unarmed boy to walk free based solely on his own account of the incident.  Had the shooter been black and the victim white would the police have acted in the same manner?  The answer to that question takes us to a dark place in our history better left for another day.
As we watched the press conferences held by prosecutor Angela Corey and Mr. Zimmerman’s new defense attorney, Mark O’Mara we were struck by two things.  The first was the professionalism and compassion exhibited by both attorneys.  Both have years of experience in trying murder cases and they understood the scrutiny to which they will be subjected.  They also clearly understood that this case is about the rights of the victim, Trayvon Martin and the accused, George Zimmerman; and that media speculation and political pressure should play no part in how they conduct themselves.  We found their reserved and professional demeanor comforting.  We felt like justice was finally in good hands.
The other thing that struck us as we listened to their comments was a sense that there is a whole lot more going on in this case than has been reported in the media.  We got the feeling that both sides have found a lot more in the evidence that make this incident far from an open and shut case.
The prosecutor’s decision to charge Mr. Zimmerman with second degree murder is quite stunning given where things were forty six days ago.  Early on the Sanford Police Department overstepped its authority and took on the mantle of judge and jury.  A black man was shot by Caucasian/Hispanic who claimed self defense.  Not guilty…case closed.  The media was slow to react.  But once the outrage grew loud enough they swooped in, polarizing the country with rhetoric about race, gun rights and probable cause.  There seems to be a sense of calm now; thanks in no small part to the efforts of Angela Corey and Mark O’Mara.  It’s as if we have come full circle.
We don’t have any idea how this case will turn out.  What we do know is that this case will finally be adjudicated in the proper venue of a United States criminal court.
The scales of Lady Justice were unfairly skewed for a while; and it looked like a horrible event would be allowed to go unquestioned.  Someone had their thumb on the plate.  But thanks to public outcry we are taking a second look; and Lady Justice is standing a little taller today.                   

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reps./Dems. Lacking Political Courage To Solve Problems

President Obama’s chief political strategist, David Axelrod and Republican Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan appeared on separate segments of Morning Joe.  What we hoped would be a robust, enlightened discussion on how these two party leaders intended to repair our economy turned into little more than political talking points and sound bites.  In the end it is apparent that neither party intends to take on the really tough choices necessary to repair our financial woes.
Representative Ryan is the author of the infamous Ryan Budget.  His debt and deficit reduction budget focuses on spending cuts as opposed to revenue increases.  Mr. Ryan proposes drastic cuts to discretionary spending; an area that only represents 10%-12% of the budget.  It is the part of the budget where you will find social programs like Pell grants, food stamps, aid to dependent children and other programs that are critical to the middle class and working poor.  You can cut these programs down to zero and you are still not going to balance the budget nor will you significantly reduce the deficit.
Mr. Axelrod, as one might expect takes a different view.  He focus is on increasing revenues, specifically raising taxes on the very rich.  He believes that it is simply a matter of everyone paying their fair share.  Mr. Axelrod and the President would raise taxes on the top 1% wage earners to a minimum of 30%. While his proposal might solve the “fairness’ issue, its $47 billion increase in revenues pales against the $22 trillion dollar debt.
Republicans and Democrats; proving once again that neither party has the courage to make the tough choices necessary to fix our financial problems.                

Santorum's Departure Weakens Our Political Discourse

Facing the pressing health issues of his young daughter and the very real possibility of losing the primary in his home state, Rick Santorum suspended his campaign for the Republican nomination. 
That’s a shame! A Rick Santorum candidacy was good for the country and we are all that much poorer for his departure.
Make no mistake, Rick Santorum was a flawed, undisciplined candidate and we found the prospect of a Santorum presidency frightening.  But Santorum was the only real conservative in the race.  He was the only candidate who embodied the true values and beliefs of the Republican Party.  He was the only conservative candidate with the courage to express those beliefs without fear of political reprisal.  And he was the only conservative who would have fought for those beliefs in a debate with the President.  That is a debate that we as a country need to have once and for all.  Now that debate will not happen.
Santorum’s departure paves the way for a Romney nomination. Seven months of watching Romney do what Romney does best…ooze into whatever political form his audience demands.  For all the talk about Romney being awkward and stiff; no one exudes political flexibility like Mitt Romney.  Trying to pin Romney down is like trying to catch water in a sieve.  But we digress.
Republicans and Democrats see two very different ideological paths for our country’s future.  We need to have a robust debate about which course is in our best interests.  Rick Santorum was a true standard bearer for Republican principles.  He spoke with a conviction that Mitt Romney can only imagine.  While we strongly disagreed with many of Santorum’s positions we respected his commitment and we will miss the clarity of his voice.       

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Buffet Rule: Bad Policy...Good Politics

If you are among those carrying the torch for reformation of our tax code then the next several days will feel like Christmas morning to a five year old.  The White House will kick off a week long push to sell the Buffet Rule today with a Presidential stump speech in Florida.  The Democratic Senate has scheduled a procedural vote on the rule for April 16.  That this flurry of activity comes as Americans face an April 15 deadline to file their taxes is no coincidence.  That the law has less than a snowballs chance in hell of passing does not lessen its political impact on the upcoming elections.
For those who may not be familiar; the “Buffet Rule” stems from a controversial comment made by billionaire Warren Buffet.  Buffet had the temerity to comment on how unfair it seemed that he, a billionaire, was paying a lesser percentage of his income in taxes than his middle class secretary.  Since most of Buffet’s earnings came from investments he was legally permitted  to pay his taxes at the 15% capital gains rate while his secretary paid hers as ordinary income; a rate of anywhere from 20-35%.  Democrats, led by the White House, seized on his comments, using them as key talking points in their effort to correct the income disparity between the richest 1% of Americans and the remainder of the country.  The result is a piece of legislation, the Buffet Rule that requires anyone making over $1 million in income to pay a minimum tax rate of 30%.
Conservatives who oppose the rule refer to it as “class warfare.”  They say that liberals are simply punishing the rich for their success.  They caution that most small businesses file their taxes as individuals and raising taxes on these job creators will hurt the economy and ultimately hurt the middle class. They say the proper way to generate increased revenue is to eliminate loopholes, reduce the tax rates and broaden the base.  But they offer no details on which loopholes they are willing to eliminate.
Liberals who support the rule say that the current system has been rigged to favor of the rich for decades.  The proof is in the huge disparity of income growth in the country.  They say that any talk of hurting job creators is nonsense; pointing out that the Bush tax cuts have been in place for a decade  without any corresponding increase in job creation.  They say the Buffet Rule is simply a matter of fairness.  They ignore that the Buffet Rule will only generate $47 billion in increased revenue; a mere blip on a $22 trillion dollar debt.
70% of Americans believe that the government should increase taxes on the rich.  This overwhelming sentiment will have no affect on a tone deaf Congress.  The fact is the Buffet Rule has no chance of passing through this deeply partisan legislature.  The Democrats know this.  But they will push for a vote simply to force Republicans to go on the record as being against tax increases for the rich.
We need to have a serious discussion about comprehensive tax reform.  This food fight over the Buffet Rule is not a serious debate.  The Buffet Rule is bad policy…but it makes for good politics.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Your Tax dollars At Work

The White House has released an interactive email: “Get Your Taxpayer Receipt” that is a real eye opener.  By using the information on their W-2s, taxpayers can enter their federal withholding tax information and learn exactly how the government is allocating their hard earned tax dollars.  The results are startling.
25% of every dollar is spent on defense…but we need to spend more.
24% is spent on health care…but there’s no reason for reform.
3.6% is spent on education…which explains why we spend 25% on defense and 24% on health care.
No other word seems appropriate.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Republicans Waging War Against Women...Fact Or Fiction

The Republican Party Chairman, Reince Priebus was recently asked how his party planned to overcome with the gender gap problem they face in the fall elections.  Mr. Priebus doesn’t believe that there is a problem.  He says that any inference that Republicans are waging a “war against women” is nothing more than a fictional controversy fueled by the main stream media. 
“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and every main stream media outlet talked about the fact that we had a war on caterpillars then we’d have a problem with caterpillars.  It’s fiction.”
In spite of the Chairman’s protestations to the contrary, there is a mountain of evidence that a war against women’s right is being waged by the Republican Party and their supporters.  Republican led state governments have presented over 90 pieces of legislation designed to limit women’s access various health care services.  Republicans have attempted to mandate trans-vaginal probes, defund Planned Parenthood and outlaw contraceptives.  They have politicized the Susan G. Komen Foundation and are presently engaged in efforts to block the renewal of the “Violence Against Women Act”.  They have called for a reduction in Pell Grants; over 50% of which go to women.  And when conservative mouthpiece Rush Limbaugh famously referred to Georgetown co-ed as a “slut” for speaking in favor of women’s access to contraceptives; not one Republican presidential candidate came to her defense.  In fact conservative pundits rose in defense of Limbaugh.
The polls indicate that Republican candidates across the country are paying a heavy price for their “fictional” war against woman.  The most recent USA Today poll shows that among women voters in swing states the President leads Romney by 18 points; 54%-36%.
The Republicans ARE waging a war against women and it is absolutely killing them in the polls.  The facts make that quite clear.
The only “fiction” to be found here lies within Mr. Priebus’ assertions to the contrary.


Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Our Problems Lie Within The Politics

We hear a lot of talk about the difficulties we face as a country.  High unemployment, a stagnant economy, skyrocketing debt, burgeoning deficits, oppressive regulations, ineffective education, collapsing infrastructure; the list goes on and on.  The problems are so big it makes you wonder if we can ever find our way out.
The truth of the matter is that these problems, while serious and difficult to solve are not insurmountable.  We have demonstrated many times in the past that we as a society are capable of doing great things when the need arises.
So why haven’t we tackled these obvious difficulties with the same verve and vigor that we have in the past?  The answer is simple.
The only thing standing between us and the robust economy and world leadership we once knew is politics.
Let’s take just one example to prove our point. 
Right know our economy is suffering from lack of growth.  One of the reasons for that is that investors are holding onto their money.  At present there are roughly $2 trillion dollars in capital sitting in off shore accounts that could be invested in this country; $2 trillion dollars that if repatriated into the US would spur economic growth and create jobs.  It is estimated that the unemployment rate would be cut in half if that money came back into the country.  So how do we get investors to invest in America? 
Both sides of the aisle agree that our 35% corporate tax rate, one of the highest in the world, is the primary reason that those funds are held off shore.  So one solution would be to reduce the corporate rate to less than the world average…say 10, 15 or encourage investment in the US; but tie access to those tax credits to the hiring of American workers.  You want lower corporate taxes…create jobs here in America.  Quid pro quo!  Seems simple!
While we would like to take credit for this simple yet effective solution we cannot.  This idea was proffered by Starbucks CEO, Howard Schultz.  Mr. Schultz is a businessman who understands that to get something you have to give something.  He is also a clear headed individual whose thought process is  unencumbered by the yoke of politics and the desire to be re-elected.
And therein lies the problem.  Politics! 
Everyone knows what we need to do to solve our problems.  We need to increase the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare.  We need to cut the cost of Medicare.  We need to reform our healthcare distribution system, reduce our military footprint, reduce our corporate tax rate and reform our tax code so that all Americans pay an equitable share.  We need to invest in innovation, infrastructure and education to position ourselves to compete on the world stage. Every poll shows that at least 70% of all Americans agree that these changes need to be made.  And the only thing standing between us and a resolution to these problems is politics.
If we could find a way to put smart, like minded people into a room…people without any political motive…people like Howard Schultz…we believe it would not take them very long to come up with equitable solutions to our seemingly insurmountable problems.  But until we find a way to set politics aside our problems will continue.
Our difficulties lie not within problems themselves; nor in finding equitable solutions. Our difficulties lie within the politics.

Play Ball!

If you paid any attention to Tuesday’s political events you came away with the very distinct feeling that the primary season is over and the general election has begun in earnest.
The President began the day excoriating the Ryan budget proposal and for the first time calling out Romney by name.  Addressing the annual Meeting of the Associated Press; a combative President referred to the House Republican budget as:  “a bleak backward and radical vision”; “a Trojan horse”, “thinly veiled social Darwinism”, “antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity and upward mobility for everyone who is willing to work for it.  It is a prescription for decline.”
He chided Romney by name for embracing the plan; and poked fun at the Republican frontrunner’s awkward use of the term “marvelous” in describing the budget.  “It (marvelous) is not a word you normally hear when describing a budget.  It’s not a word that you normally hear…period.”
Later in the day Romney gave a victory speech celebrating his primary wins in Maryland, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin. Assuming the mantle of the assumed nominee; Romney avoided any mention of his Republican opponents and focused his remarks on the President.  He criticized the President’s economic policies and what her referring to as Obama’s vision of a “government centered society.”
“There is a basic choice that we are going to face.   The President has pledged to transform America and he has spent the last four years laying the foundation for a new government centered society.  I will spend the next four years rebuilding the foundation of an opportunity society led by free people and free enterprises.”
Clearly the battle lines have been drawn.  The President has made clear his intention to turn the conversation away from his record and focus voters’ attention on the radical aspects of the Ryan plan.  The video of Romney and Ryan attached at the hip in Wisconsin only plays into the narrative.  Thus far he has been wildly successful.
Romney will counter by emphasizing his successful career as a “fixer”.  He will demonstrate that the lagging economy, high unemployment and skyrocketing deficits produced by the Obama administration require his “fixer” talents.
Spring training is over for the professional political athletes; the regular season has begun.  The teams have set their rosters.  Both sides are well funded, loaded with talent and eager for the challenge.  A long season lies ahead. 
The President threw the first pitch…and Romney smacked it right back up the middle.    

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

President Takes Political Risk...Challenges Supreme Court

The President went off the rails Monday and issued a direct challenge to the Supreme Court to uphold his health care reform act.  When asked about the Court’s deliberations at a Rose Garden press conference the President took the opportunity to remind the Court that they are an “unelected group of people” who should refrain from overturning a law passed by a “democratically elected Congress.”
“Ultimately, I’m confident that the Supreme Court will not take what would be an unprecedented, extraordinary step of overturning a law that was passed by a strong majority of a democratically elected Congress.” 
While challenging the Court, the President sought to pull his opponents into the fray by using the current case to remind conservatives about their long standing concerns about activist judges and judicial over reach.
“For years what we’ve heard (from conservatives) is that the biggest problem on the bench was judicial activism or lack of judicial restraint…that an unelected group of people would somehow overturn a duly constituted and passed law.”
This is not the first time that this President has chosen to publically confront the Roberts' Court.  You may recall that during his 2010 State of the Union address the President blatantly criticized the Court’s decision on Citizens United; a ruling that allowed corporations to donate unlimited sums of money into political campaigns.  The President warned of the magnitude of this decision on our election process.  His words have proven to be prophetic.
As a general rule Presidents do not publically challenge the Supreme Court.  If they do, they do so at their peril.  The division of powers is sacrosanct. Thomas Jefferson challenged the Court…as did Jackson…and FDR.  All lost. 
The American people like to believe that the Court rises above partisan politics.  They do not like their politicians to infer otherwise.  The fact that this President would challenge the Court so publically on this issue shows how important he believes it is to the country…and his legacy.  Make no mistake; “legacy” plays an important role in every major Presidential decision.
Was the President’s directness an attempt to influence the Court?  Was he making a case for the division of powers?  Or was it pure politics…paving the way to dismiss a negative ruling as just another example of partisan judicial over reach?  Regardless, he has opened himself up for scrutiny and placed a large political bet in the middle of a divisive election season.
The President went out on a limb with this one.  From our view the limb is cracking.                   

Monday, April 2, 2012

A "Handout" Is A "Handout"...Right?

One more comment on the Republican budget proposal…
Fiscal conservatives have an ideological aversion to the social safety net.  Simply put; they do not believe in “handouts.”  They believe that each of us has an opportunity to be successful in life.  They believe if you work hard you should be able to reap the fruits of your hard labor; and under no circumstances should you be forced by the government to hand over those benefits to others.  They see programs like welfare, unemployment insurance, food stamps and the like as “handouts” to those who are unwilling to do what it takes to become successful and self sustained.  “I’ve got mine…now leave me alone and go take care of yourself.”
These basic beliefs are borne out in their politics and policies.  The recent Republican budget proposal is centered on the reducing the deficit by cutting or eliminating social safety net programs that they view as “handouts” to those who have been unable, for one reason or another, to get by on their own.
We get it!  And our purpose here is not to question those beliefs but to ask a simple question:
If fiscal conservatives are so averse to giving “handouts” to those less fortunate; then how do they explain their willingness to continue providing government subsidies to wealthy corporations; and tax loopholes that clearly favor the richest among us?  Are these not handouts as well? 
The government currently provides trillions in subsidies to major oil companies and defense contractors that are generating billions in profits.  Agriculture, transportation, small businesses; these industries are all receiving “handouts” from the government. Wealthy individuals benefit as well; permitted to pay their taxes at a 15% capital gains rate half of the standard rate required of most Americans.
Fiscal conservatives say these “handouts” are justified because they encourage the more fortunate to invest in the economy and create jobs for those less advantaged.  The current state of the economy and rate of unemployment suggests that their argument lacks credibility.  In fact every economic study shows that the economy gets more bang for every dollar of unemployment insurance paid than it does from any subsidy or tax break.
So we ask; if conservatives are so averse to giving handouts to the less advantaged how do they square providing handouts to the most advantaged?
Just asking…