Friday, February 28, 2014

An Unholy Trinity!

As the Republican Party careens its way toward the November mid-terms we are starting to see a third faction enter the party’s unholy civil war.

You are all familiar with the moderate Republican leadership led by Boehner, Cantor and McCarthy. McConnell has been known to collaborate with this group but only when he can extort a nice piece of pork for his district. Moderates would prefer to talk about restricting women’s reproductive rights, abolishing same sex marriage or restricting voters’ rights, but they are smart enough to understand that those issues are losers at the polls. They realize that the only way to move their agenda forward is by winning elections. So they try to find some balance between the radicals on the far right and their more clear headed members on the center right.

Next, we have the Tea Party Patriots led by Cruz, Bachman, Lee and Ghomert. Eric Cantor swims in this pool as well; especially when he sees an opportunity to make Boehner look bad. These folks want to see the long winding government train shortened to nothing more than a small engine and caboose. They are more than willing to blow up the train if they don’t get their way. They engage in inflammatory rhetoric that draws huge crowds but gets them little more than a sympathetic pat on the back at the loser’s after party. Their reckless actions have cost the party dearly. If not for these “patriots” the Republican Party might already hold the majority in the senate as well as the house.

We can now see the flickering spark of a third faction emerging. They are led by Rand Paul, a Tea Party Patriot who understands that calling Obama a mongrel might draw cheers but it won’t win elections. Paul is preaching a more optimistic message. He wants his party to be more inclusive…to build a bigger tent. Make no mistake, he wants a smaller government. He shares Romney’s view of the 47%, but he is smart enough to understand that expressing that view publically won’t get him the prize he covets most…the White House. So he preaches finding common ground to move the country forward. Sometimes his dark side slips out…like when he told Rachel Maddow that a business owner should be allowed to refuse to serve anyone seated at his counter that he sees fit. But his Tea Party credentials and more moderate tone are gaining traction within the party.

Given the large number of Democrat lawmakers who have announced their retirement, the president’s sinking popularity and the dissatisfaction with his signature piece of legislation Republicans have a real opportunity to increase their majority in the House AND re-take the senate.

Standing in their way is not so much their Democratic opponents but whether the three prongs of the Republican trident can unite behind one message that the voters will accept.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Brewer Got It Right!

A modicum of sanity found its way into the Arizona politics yesterday when Governor Jan brewer vetoed SB 1062, the state’s controversial antigay legislation.

The governor held a rare news conference to announce her decision saying: “Senate Bill 1062…could divide Arizonans in ways we cannot even imagine…As governor I have protected religious freedoms whenever there is a specific and present concern that exists in our state. I have not heard of one example in Arizona where a business owner’s religious liberty has been violated.”

It took several days and intense pressure from the business community to bring the governor to her senses; but in the end she got this one right.

Religious advocates criticized the governor’s action. They said the intent of the bill was misunderstood; characterizing the bill as an effort to “guarantee that all Arizonans would be free to live and work according to their faith.”

That is a lie! Religious advocates should recognize a lie when they see one.

Too often people in this country use religion as a weapon against those whose with whom they disagree…a convenient excuse to marginalize or discriminate against those they fear or whose behavior or customs they do not understand. In this country such discriminatory practices are illegal.

If a homosexual lifestyle offends your religious beliefs then you have the right to refrain from participating in that lifestyle. But you do not have the right to force others to change their behavior simply because it offends your religious sensibilities.

SB 1062 is nothing more than a poor attempt to re-open the floodgates of discrimination and bigotry without fear of reprisal.

SB 1062 was not about having the freedom to exercise ones religious beliefs. It was about discrimination and bigotry… pure and simple.

Governor Brewer got this one right.

Now she needs to find a way to repeal the state’s discriminatory anti-immigration law.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cheney Wrong Again!

We awake this morning to find the military once again front and center in today’s news.

Today we learn that President Obama, tired of the machinations of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, has ordered US military leaders to plan on pulling all combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. The president has tried repeatedly to get Karzai to sign a bilateral security agreement that would allow the US to maintain a residual security force in country. The Afghan parliament approved the agreement last November. But the always corrupt Karzai has refused to sign the agreement, hoping to leverage it against further concessions (payoffs) from the US. Neo-cons say the pull-out sends a message that America will quit when times get tough.

Earlier this week we learned that the Obama administration is preparing a defense budget that would reduce the size of our military to pre-WWII levels. Critics fear that these significant cuts will jeopardize national security.

Regardless of which side of this debate you are on, you can be certain of one thing. Any discussion involving national security is certain to prompt Dick Cheney to emerge from the shadows.

Appearing on FOXNEWS, Cheney was eager to weigh in on the President’s decision to cut the military budget: “He’d much rather spend the money on food stamps than he would on a strong military or support for our troops.”

As he has so often in the past, the former Vice President got it wrong.

Evidently Dick is unaware that a 2013 Defense Department review determined that more military families were reliant on food stamps last year than in any previous year. Military grocery stores saw over $100 million in food stamp spending. Quoting Alan Pyke, ThinkProgress’ Deputy Economics editor: “Food stamp usage at stores has more than quadrupled since 2007 as the recession compounded the already difficult situation faced by military families.”

900,000 military veterans currently depend on food stamps. But Dick isn’t concerned about them. In Dicks’ eyes military personnel are simple pawns to be used to brandish US military might while cementing his tough guy image in history. Once they have left the battlefield they are all but forgotten.

At the very worst Dick Cheney is a war monger, a traitor and a war criminal who lied to the American people.

At the very least he is the Vice President under whose watch our enemies perpetrated the worst terrorist attack on US soil in our history and whose bad judgment took us into an unnecessary war that cost the lives of thousands of Americans and over a million innocent civilians.

Dick got it wrong once again.

Thankfully this time no one got hurt.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014


FLIP - Ever since we learned that we have more natural gas reserves under our feet than the Saudis have barrels of oil; natural gas exploration has been a booming business for the oil companies. And no company has slurped more from the natural gas trough than ExxonMobile. ExxonMobile is the largest natural gas producer in the world and its CEO Rex Tillerson, the front man for all that is good about the industry. Tillerson’s primary job is to sell the public on the virtues of natural gas exploration and the safety of its controversial “fracking” process. Fracking is the process of forcing water and what are hazardous chemicals into the shale to force out the natural gas. Property owners have expressed their concerns over the negative affects fracking has on their property values and quality of life. Chemicals seeping into the water table, unsightly drilling operations, 24 hour noise pollution and lower property values are the primary issues. Tillerson has taken every opportunity to marginalize their concerns. That is until a fracking operation decided it was going to build a 160 water tower next to his home. The tower would be used to supply water to a nearby fracking site. Tillerson has joined other property owners in the area in filing a lawsuit to block construction of the water tower. The suit claims that project would cause too much traffic and noise from hauling water from the tower to the fracking site. According to Tillerson’s lawyer the CEO is concerned the operation might devalue his property. What's good for the goose...

FLIP – The intensity of the blowback over Arizona’s controversial anti-gay law has proponents ducking for cover. The bill, passed by the Republican controlled state legislature, allows business owners to refuse to sell goods and services to gays “and others” if they believe that doing so would violate the tenants of their religious beliefs. The bill awaits the governor’s signature. Opponents of the bill stormed the statehouse bearing signs of protest. Handmade signs generally do not faze lawmakers. But threaten their pocketbooks and you get their undivided attention. Apple, Marriott, American Airlines and other major corporations made it clear that their interest in doing business in the state would be adversely affected if the bill were signed into law. The NFL mumbled that it would consider withdrawing the Super Bowl scheduled for Phoenix in 2015. Republican state legislators are now urging the governor to veto the bill they voted for less than a week ago. Three Republican state senators have written a letter to the governor formally withdrawing their support of the measure. This is what happens when one’s ideology loosens their grip on reality.

FLOP – Secretary of State Chuck Hagel announced that in 2015 the defense department will undergo the largest military cuts in the 40 year history of the all volunteer force. Cuts will include a reduction in active duty US Army forces to pre-WWII levels of 440,000. The Air force will eliminate its entire fleet of A-10 Warthog close air support fighters as well as its fleet of U-2 spy planes. 30,000 National Guard troops will be eliminated. Commissary and housing allowances will also be slashed. Military bases will be closed but specifics were not announced. The cuts are part of a concerted effort by the Obama Administration to reduce government spending. One would assume that such a reduction in spending would be looked upon favorably by fiscal conservatives. Not so much! The announcement was met with a hair-on-fire reaction from the right who asserted that the cuts would jeopardize our national security. These are the same lawmakers who are always railing against the deficits and the debt. It is ok to reduce deficits by cutting social safety net programs upon which tens of millions of Americans depend. But the minute that you hint at cutting the defense budget or closing a military base in a conservative district all hell breaks loose.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Ditat Deus!


The Grand Canyon state!

Home to the Valley of the Sun!

The state that proudly proclaims: “Ditat Deus!”(God Enriches!)

You can now add “land of the homophobes” to that list.

Last week the Republican controlled state legislature passed SB 1062 which grants business owners the right to refuse service to gays, lesbians “and others” if the owner believes that doing so violates the tenants of his or her religion. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature.

Welcome to Arizona! Check your “gayness” at the door!

This bill is not only discriminatory and unconstitutional; its wording opens a Pandora’s of divisive behavior that knows no bounds.

Hate Jews! Put your hand on the Koran and proclaim “allahu akbar” (God is great!)

Not fond of Muslims! Slap a yamaka on your head and your all set.

Got a problem with Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians! “No soup for you!” It’s all good.

Business owners across the state are very concerned about the blowback affects the controversial law will have on their business. They are still trying to recover from the state’s anti-illegal immigration law that allows law enforcement officers to pull over Hispanics without cause and demand to see their papers. There is also the anti-abortion law that prohibits abortions after 20 weeks and proclaims that that life begins at the end of the women’s last menstrual cycle! #%?*

One concerned business owner displayed a sign in his storefront that reads: “NO SERVICE FOR STATE LEGISLATORS”

Arizona’s discriminatory laws are enforced by police officials who can be a bit heavy handed in carrying out their duties. The most famous of these law enforcement officials is Sherriff Joe Arpaio. Sherriff Arpaio is famous for his “Tent City” an open air facility erected next to the Maricopa Jail. Prisoners are subjected to the desert conditions where the thermometer often tops 112 degrees. Depriving prisoners of meals and limiting them to bread and water is commonplace. Arpaio has been accused of abuse of power, misusing government funds and racial profiling.

Arizona’s chief executive officer is Governor Jan Brewer. She is famously known for exhibiting her disdain for the president by wagging her finger in his face during a public encounter.

The state is represented in congress by senior Senator John McCain; a man who has never met a war he didn’t want to wage. Then candidate McCain is perhaps best known for singing “Bomb, bomb, bomb…bomb, bomb Iran” to the Beach Boys classic “Barbara Ann.”

The Great State of Arizona; where bigots, racists, war mongers and snow birds live in harmony.

“Ditat Deus!”


Thursday, February 20, 2014

Weak At Home = Weak Abroad!

It used to be that our country spoke with one voice whenever we found ourselves confronted by issues from outside our borders. Politics were set aside and our president would speak on behalf of the nation; his most vocal detractors remaining silent out of unified respect for the office. We may have been divided politically but we stood united in the eyes of the world.

Sadly for us that is no longer the case.

Violence has broken out once again in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. Angry anti-government protestors clashed with police when a cease fire agreement fell apart. At least 28 are reported dead and 300 injured during the two days of violence.

The Ukrainian government is in bed with Putin. The protestors, tired of living under the Russian boot, want closer ties with the West. They want the current government replaced.

President Obama weighed in on the conflict Wednesday, condemning the violence and warning that there would be consequences if it continues.

Instead of rallying around the president’s condemnation of the violent acts of the Ukrainian government, the president’s political opponents on the right used the opportunity to attack the president and score political points. Referencing his failure to enforce the “red line“ he drew in Syria, right wing politicians and pundits alike referred to the president’s comments as “hollow” and his actions as “impotent.”

“Have more empty words ever been uttered by an American president...the president’s latest threat is probably evoking belly laughs in Kiev.” Peter Wehner.

“Obama is acting like Jimmy Carter on steroids…It would have been nice to have had the credibility of being at least respected by adversaries or admired by our allies.” Ollie North.

“Well, announcing expectations is all very well. But I’m not sure who is impressed by it. What we are seeing in the Ukraine, what we have seen in Syria, and what we will see again in Iran is a complete failure of what I think was the centerpiece of the president’s foreign policy and that is the reset of relations with Russia.” George Will.

There is an old adage in politics that says that you are only as strong on foreign policy as you are economically at home. Needless to say we are in the throes of a weakened economy. It is hard to gain public support on international issues when an already war weary nation is struggling to make ends meet.

We have said many times that a sitting president bears the responsibility for that which occurs on his watch. Certainly the brunt of our economic condition as well as our place on the world stage will be placed at the feet of this president. But for Republicans to shirk any responsibility for our current state of affairs is disingenuous at best.

We are a war weary, bloated superpower whose place in the world is not what it used to be. Part of our fall from grace comes from our inability to govern ourselves. We are so gridlocked by partisan political ideology that we are incapable of moving the country forward. The world stands witness to our stagnation and corrosive behavior and reacts accordingly. Add to that the disgraceful public displays of contempt toward our elected president and it is little wonder that they pay us no mind.

Republicans have been willing participants in the erosion of our country’s status on the world stage. Two unnecessary wars, a willingness to default on our debt, shutting down the government and an ongoing policy of obstructionism has hurt us domestically and weakened us in the eyes of our adversaries. For Republicans to lay all of this on the president is like pouring sugar in the gas tank of the fire truck and then criticizing the fire department for not responding when the house goes up in flames.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Raising The Minimum Wage Is Not Enough

Yesterday the Congressional Budget Office weighed in on the Democrats’ proposal to increase the hourly minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 by 2016.

The CBO said that increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 could cut 500,000 (+) (-) jobs from the economy. At the same time it would provide 16,400,000 workers a pay increase while lifting 900,000 families out of poverty. In other words there are tradeoffs to be considered.

As one might expect members from both sides of the aisle parsed the report to fit their own partisan needs.

Republicans sited the CBO analysis as certification that the Democratic proposal was a “job killer” that placed a greater economic burden on small businesses already struggling to survive. “If and when Democrats try to push this irresponsible proposal, they should be prepared to explain why up to a million Americans should be kept from having a job.” said Mitch McConnell.

Democrats focused on the 900,000 Americans lifted from poverty and the positive effects giving 16 million a pay raise would have on the economy.

Both parties are viewing this proposal from inside a partisan political vacuum.

First of all we are growing weary of the constant references to the plight of small businesses…the alleged “drivers of our economy.” Small businesses have been handed a host of economic advantages for decades with the false premise that they will grow the economy. From the Bush tax cuts to tax loopholes…subsidies to quantitative easing…the federal government has bent over back words to meet the needs of the small business owner. These “handouts” have generated a sputtering economy, high unemployment and near depression poverty levels...all while the business community enjoys record profits. Enough already!

That said there needs to be an understanding that raising the minimum wage will result in some folks losing their jobs. The CBO says that given the state of our economy the job loss could be infinitesimal or it could go as high as 1 million. They simply don’t know. Practical studies in the past have shown that raising the minimum wage has little effect on unemployment. But we cannot raise the minimum wage in a vacuum.

The president is right when he says that if you work a full time job you should not have to face living in poverty. Hard work resulting in the prospect of a brighter future stands at the core of who we are as a society. It is time to raise the minimum wage. It is the right thing to do…morally and economically. Putting more money into the hands of the people will give them more disposable income to pour right back into the economy. The more money people have the more they will spend in those small businesses that Republicans are so concerned about.

But we cannot rely on a wage increase to fix our economic condition. Raising the minimum wage must be done in conjunction with other programs focused on driving the economy. The fact is what we are suffering from is “joblessness.” There simply aren’t enough jobs to fuel the economy.

So let’s start by resurrecting the president’s American Jobs Act and repair, rebuild and rejuvenate our infrastructure while creating good paying jobs.

We pay billions in unemployment benefits. Instead of tying those benefits to clean drug tests how about dovetailing them with job training programs to help people get the skills they need to be productive in today’s workplace.

And if you are still worried about the plight of Warren Buffet, hedge fund millionaires and the rest of the small business community then how about a four year small business tax cut to offset wage increase transition.

The minimum wage should be increased. It’s the right thing to do. But it cannot be done in a vacuum.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

China Holds The Key

As a general rule it is never a good idea to compare anyone’s behavior to the atrocities carried out by the Nazi’s in WWII. The depravity unleashed by the Nazi’s during that time was so heinous that it defies any measure of comparison in modern history.

Unfortunately it appears that there may be an exception to that rule.

A report released by the United Nations characterizes the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un as a brutal state “that does not have any parallel in the contemporary world.” According to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in North Korea, there is now hard evidence the regime routinely uses murder, slavery, torture, rape, forced abortions and mass executions to “terrorize the population into submission.” The commission will send its findings on to the International Criminal Court where Kim Jong Un could face prosecution for crimes against humanity.

By all accounts Kim Jong Un, like his father and grandfather before him, is a brutal and unstable individual for whom authoritarian rule is insufficient. He is emboldened in his brutality by the Chinese government who serve as his enabler. The Chinese have used their power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council to quash any worldwide attempt to bring the regime to bear. The Chinese have already announced that they will not allow any human rights charges to proceed.

The world has always known of the brutality being inflicted upon the North Korean people by Kim and his family. Now, with the terror laid bare for all to see, will the world community continue to look the other way?

It is only a matter of time before the call rings out for US intervention. As the world’s lone super power we will be expected to do what no other nation is willing to do. Leading the charge will be the neo-cons led by Senator McCain and his ilk. We can already hear their cries for “American leadership.” Give it a day or two and you will hear the worn out accusations that our “feckless” president is “leading from behind.” Keep in mind that these are generally the same people who rail against government spending and the size of our debt. Borrowing trillions more to wage war with our banker…brilliant!

The path to ending the blood bath in North Korea goes through China. As previously stated China is Kim’s biggest supporter. They share Kim’s disdain toward human rights. But they have expressed some concern that this Kim might be a little more unhinged than his ancestors. The Chinese are having trouble controlling him; and therein lies the solution.

The way to remove the North Korean regime is not through war. It is by convincing China that their interests in the region are best served with a united Korea ruled from Seoul.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rooting For China

The northeast is bracing for another snowstorm. Fifteen inches of the powdery stuff fell last week.

The southeast is coming off a freak ice storm that paralyzed Atlanta for 48 hours.

In some parts of the Midwest temps will start the week in the teens, rise into the 60’s at mid-week only to plummet back to sub-freezing by the weekend.

Meanwhile the far west is suffering through a record drought.

Is there any wonder that the debate over climate change has reared its ugly head?

The debate of course is whether man is causing or at the very least contributing to these climactic extremes by the way in which we produce goods and services. In laymen’s terms…there are those who believe that the greenhouse gases that we produce are causing the weather extremes that we have been experiencing. These folks want to see us reduce those emissions for the betterment of our quality of life.

Naturally there are those who stand in opposition. They say that these fluctuations in climate have been happening for centuries. They find absurd any notion that these fluctuations are manmade.

For the uneducated greenhouse gases are: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases. They result from the burning of fossil fuels like coal, natural gas, oil and various agricultural and industrial processes. Reducing these greenhouse gases is doable…but expensive. And therein lies the rub.

We are not going to get into the debate over whether or not the greenhouse gases that we produce are having a direct effect on our heat waves and snowfalls. What we know about science wouldn’t fill a thimble.

Here is what we do know.

We know that in 2008 the summer Olympics were held in Beijing China. Beijing is a city of 21 million people. Chinese laws limiting the emission of greenhouse gases are non-existent. Citizens routinely wear surgical masks to filter out the pollution. In 2008 the air was so thick with pollutants that you could cut it with a knife. During the weeks preceding the games the Chinese government shut down traffic and ordered manufacturing facilities to cease operations to allow the air to clear. The Chinese government acted not out of concern for the athletes or its citizens but to avoid the embarrassment of having photos of the filthy skies broadcast around the world. Their attempts at subterfuge were all for naught and the world got to view first hand a society with little concern over the affects of greenhouse gases.

China leads the world in the production of green house gases.

The United States ranks a close second.

Heat waves and snowfalls aside…that’s one race we don’t want to win.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Cruz Throws Colleagues Under The Bus...Again!

Politics is a nasty business.

False accusations, innuendo, muckraking…politicians will do whatever it takes to win over the voters.

As Chris Christie once said: “Politics ain’t bean bag.”

Normally politicians reserve these unsavory tactics for their opponents on the other side of the aisle. Not so for the “honorable” junior senator from the great state of Texas…Ted Cruz. To Senator Cruz the halls of congress are mere pathways to a greater calling…his colleagues simple pawns to be used at his discretion. For Senator Ted Cruz is all about Senator Ted Cruz.

You may recall last October the good senator was meeting with House Republicans…urging them to stand strong and cut government spending…even if it meant shutting down the government. Cruz was the consummate cheerleader…rooting House members on from the sidelines.

And shut down the government they did…for 16 days.

Yet when the avalanche of criticism thundered down on his party…there was Cruz…shocked that anyone would think he had played any part in orchestrating a shutdown that cost the economy billions…opining that it was a failed strategy from the start. And when it came time for the senate to vote on providing the funds to reopen the government…there was Cruz voting “yea”…throwing his colleagues in the House under the bus.

Cruz wanted the government shut down to make a political point and curry favor with his base. He got his minions in the House to do the heavy lifting…playing them like fools while portraying himself as an innocent bystander.

Cruz was at it again this week. This time his target was the Republican leadership in the Senate.

The House had just passed a clean bill to extend the debt ceiling. Harry Reid said that he would bring the bill to the Senate floor for a vote. Cruz was having none of it. He told anyone who would listen that he would filibuster the measure to prevent passage with a simple majority. If the country were to default on its debts…so be it. The Tea Party base was smiling.

Republican leadership responded. They understood that their party could ill afford another political fiasco like the previously mentioned government shutdown…particularly in this an election year. GOP Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and the senior senator from Texas, John Cornyn worked the floor to head off Cruz’s filibuster. They persuaded 12 Republicans to join Democrats in passing the bill 67-31.

McConnell and Cornyn face tough re-election campaigns back home. Both are being challenged from the right by Tea Party candidates. Cruz wants them both gone. He has no use for moderates who are willing to work with the other side. He sees compromise as a weakness.

So he blusters on about a filibuster knowing full well that McConnell and Cornyn will work against him. Getting McConnell and Cornyn on the record as voting FOR an increase in the debt limit is the goal. It weakens their prospects for re-election. If the government shuts down in the process...mores’ the better. Cruz wins either way. His base is happy and he stands poised to assume the mantle of leadership.

After the votes were cast Cruz was asked if McConnell should maintain his leadership role. "That" he said "is up to the voters in Kentucky."

Politics is a nasty business.

No one knows that better than Ted Cruz.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Ideology vs. Job Security

So this is what governing looks like?

Yesterday 28 House Republicans joined with House Democrats and passed a clean debt ceiling bill with no strings attached.

Assured that the bill would pass…the 199 remaining Republicans cast their ceremonial vote in opposition…just so they could say they did.

Speaker Boehner had tried for weeks to find consensus within his caucus for any sort of face saving add on bill that would avoid the appearance of complete capitulation. But herding cats is hard and this Speaker is demonstrably bad at his job.

With no consensus in sight, the Speaker abruptly announced to his members that he would bring a clean bill to the floor and allow Democrats to carry the day. “I won’t allow us to become the story” he said.

His announcement was met with total silence. Boehner is said to have stared at his muted audience for a few moments before walking out of the room muttering aloud: “I’m getting this monkey off your back and you’re not even going to clap?”

While the response in the room was somber and silent it stood in stark contrast to the outrage that greeted the Speaker’s public announcement.

“A clean debt ceiling is a complete capitulation on the Speaker’s part and demonstrates that he has lost the ability to lead the House of Representatives let alone his own party. It’s time for him to go. Fire the Speaker.” said Tea Party Patriots co-founder Jenny Martin.

Other conservative outside interest groups offered similar assessments. Senate Conservatives Fund: “John Boehner must be replaced as Speaker of the House.” Club for Growth called the vote “a joke.”

It is easy to be outraged when you are not facing a re-election vote in six months.

A word of caution to those of you who might feel that détente is in the air.

The bill now moves to the Senate where Senator Ted Cruz has vowed to demand the senate require 60 votes to raise the debt limit: “Under no circumstances will I agree to raise the US debt ceiling with no conditions with just 50 votes. I intend to object and force a 60 vote threshold.”

Apparently the esteemed senator from Texas doesn’t realize that his party is still trying to recover from the self inflicted political damage brought about by its part in the government shutdown and the last debt ceiling fiasco. Perhaps Senator Cruz should heed the words of his Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who once said: “There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule.”

What we witnessed in the House yesterday is neither détente nor is it governance.

It is just another example of what so often happens when a politician’s ideology runs head long into his desire to keep his job.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

White House Dithering With The ACA

The White House is dithering with the Affordable Care Act…again!

The White House announced on Monday that it is extending the employer mandate under the Affordable Care Act until January 2016 for businesses with 50-100 employees.

This is the second time that the White House has extended the mandate. In July of 2013 the Obama administration extended the deadline to 2015 for businesses employing more than 100 workers. The law originally required that businesses with 50 or more employees provide health care coverage by 2014 or face a fine of $2,000 per employee.

The administration referred to the extension as a form of “transition relief” to help employers transition to the new health care law.

There are so many things wrong with this announcement that it is hard to know where to start.

GROW A PAIR - If you are going to announce changes to your signature piece of legislation, particularly changes in its most controversial element…the mandate…you don’t do it via a blog post. You stand before the press and explain your reasoning.

TELL US THE TRUTH - The term “transition relief” is “bs” and the White House knows it. The ACA was passed into law in 2010. The business community has had over three years to prepare for the “transition.”

The White House won’t say it but it is very concerned about the affects the mandate is having on businesses that are already struggling in a weakened economy. Insurance costs are bound to go up in the short term until insurance companies figure out the demographics of their new client pool. The more the White House screws around with the rules the longer that will take. The fines offer an expensive alternative. Both options affect the bottom line. The last thing the White House wants to do is impede economic growth…but the ACA will do just that for the time being.

DÉJÀ VU – We’ve seen this movie before. This White House continues to focus on the policy while ignoring the messaging. For example…this one year delay poses an obvious question…if the mandate is bad for business and the economy in 2014 why will it be good for business and the economy in one year’s time? There is nothing to suggest that we will see a sudden surge in economic growth in the next twelve months. By all accounts the current slow but sure trends will continue.

The health care industry affects 18% of our economy. That’s a very big deal. Any change in the law governing that industry warrants an explanation. Why is the mandate bad today…but good tomorrow?

THE ANSWER IS SIMPLE – It’s all about politics. Democrats are desperate to lessen the negative impact that the ACA is most definitely going to have on the mid-terms.

Democrats are in danger of losing more seats in the House. There is a very real possibility that they could lose their majority in the Senate. At the core of the nation’s discontent is the ACA. The Obama administration’s decision to push back the mandate until after the elections is clearly a response to the pressure they are receiving from their Democratic caucus. It would be nice to think that the administration is making this change for the good of the masses. Unfortunately it’s just politics as usual.

We have said from the very beginning that the ACA is a flawed attempt to provide health CARE for the masses by way of a free enterprise insurance industry that is interested in providing health INSURANCE for the young and the healthy. The ACA serves at the pleasure of the masses. Its goal is to improve their quality of life and reduce their health care costs. The insurance industry serves at the pleasure of its stockholders. Its goal is to turn a profit. There is nothing wrong with either objective. But trying to force health care for all through the current free enterprise system is the consummate example of round peg square hole.

That said…the ACA is a far and away a better solution than anything its Republican detractors have to offer…WHICH IS NOTHING! Until Republicans are willing to offer a substantive solution to our nation’s health care problems their comments are nothing more than partisan nonsense designed to confuse the public.
Unfortunately the ACA is here to stay. We would much prefer a single payer solution such as Medicare/Medicaid for everyone. But until the Obama administration is willing to go down that path they need to concentrate on modifying and explaining the ACA in a way that is good for the people…not just good politics.

Monday, February 10, 2014


Governor Chris Christie says he didn’t know that the George Washington Bridge…the busiest bridge in the world…that happens connect his state to the largest city in the country…was closed for four days…”until I read it in the newspaper.”

Governor Chris Christie says he didn’t know that the bridge closure was part of a retribution scheme hatched by his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Anne Kelly and one of his key appointments to the Port Authority, David Wildstein….”until I read it in the newspaper.”

Governor Chris Christie says he didn’t know about the hit job memo his staff released questioning Wildstein’s character by recalling some of his missteps as a high school student…”until I read it in the newspaper.”

Do we see a pattern here?

You can only play the “I didn’t know” card so often before people start to question the veracity of your denials.

Did the governor know about the actions taken by his staff on his behalf… or is he simply clueless?

In terms of a presidential run…it really doesn’t matter.

Either scenario disqualifies Christie as a serious candidate.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Speaker Boehner Is Really Bad At His Job

Speaker Boehner says that he doesn’t see the House passing immigration reform this year. The reason, according to Boehner, stems from a lack of trust in the president.

“The American people, and many of my members, don’t trust that the reform that we are talking about will be implemented as it was intended to be” said the Speaker.

The Speaker’s 180 degree shift comes a mere week after proffering a statement of principles that he believed would win the support of his caucus. He offered his personal support for a comprehensive bill that would address the plight of 11 million immigrants living in this country illegally. Now he says it’s not going to’ happen.

“I never underestimated the difficulty in moving forward this year.”

For the record…no one has been tougher on implementing the country’s current immigration laws than this president. In his five years in office President Obama has deported 4 times the number of illegal immigrants than his predecessor did in eight. He has invested more money, manpower and resources to secure our boarders than any previous president. Any suggestion that this president has been soft on
immigration is without merit.

We’ve seen this movie before.

If any of this looks familiar to you…it should…because it is a scene that we have witnessed on numerous occasions. Boehner comes to a conclusion or reaches an accord with the president only to have his caucus throw it back in his face. Remember the “Grand Bargain” that Boehner and Obama cobbled together in 2011? Over 4 trillion in cuts and a meaningful attempt to rein in long term debt were squandered because

Boehner could not sell it to his members.

So what is really going on with Republicans?

Republicans are chaffing at the president’s willingness to circumvent their obstruction by using executive orders to move the country forward. They like to refer to this course of action by such terms as: “breaking the law” or “abuse of power” and “impeachable offense.” In fact President Obama is merely using the powers afforded him under the Constitution. Lost on Republicans is the concept that we had an election and this president was chosen by the people in part because they trusted his judgment to make these types of decisions. The fact that the House of Representatives is more aptly named a House of Dysfunction is in no small part attributable to the weakness of its leader.

Speaker Boehner would have us believe that immigration reform is dead due to a lack of trust in this president when it fact it is because the Speaker, unlike his compatriot on the other side of the aisle, Nancy Pelosi, has no control of his caucus. Say what you will about Minority Leader Pelosi…when she says she has the votes…she has the votes. She is both feared and respected by her members. Boehner cannot make such a claim.

If immigration reform falls by the wayside, it will join back ground checks, raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, extension of unemployment benefits, the Grand Bargain and a host of other legislative items supported by 70%+ of the electorate; all kicked to the curb because Boehner could not control his caucus.

In the long term, Speaker Boehner’s legacy will be that he presided over the most unproductive House of Representatives in our nation’s history.

In the short term, his suggestion that the impasse over immigration reform is due to a lack of trust in this president is pure fiction.

The real reason immigration reform is dead is because Speaker Boehner is really bad at his job.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Here we Go Again!

Here we go again!

Battle lines are being drawn for another skirmish over the debt ceiling limit which will expire at the end of this month. Republicans stand in opposition to the concept. The problem is that they can’t agree on where to set the picket lines.

For the past few weeks Republicans have been struggling to find consensus over a laundry list of provisions to attach to any agreement to raise the debt limit. Tea Party members have no interest in raising the debt limit…period. Moderates within the party understand that the country cannot default on its debts but want some amount of debt reduction in return.

The provisions being bandied about will have little or no impact on the country’s debt. It’s really more about saving face. “We have to get something!” exclaimed one frustrated party member.

Whatever concessions Republicans might win they will fall far short of the trillions in cuts that they walked away from in 2011. Speaker Boehner and the president had crafted a compromise in 2011 that included increased revenues and substantive cuts in the previously sacrosanct “entitlement programs.” But Republicans over played their hand and walked away at the last moment. The current pox on their head is of their own making.

Democrats for their part are resolute…redoubts fortified. Their position is simple. The country incurred these debts and therefore they must be paid. The only option is a clean bill raising the limit…period. Their position fortified by the avalanche of criticism unleashed on Republicans over the recent government shutdown. Democrats have the high ground…and they know it.

This whole debate seems silly…particularly in light of very recent events.

The Republicans who stand in opposition to an increase in the debt limit are the exact same Republicans who 48 hours ago stood shoulder to shoulder with Democrats and approved $1 trillion dollars in “borrowed” money to fund the Farm Bill…which by the way is one of the largest distributions of wealth for the benefit of a special interest group in our history. Now they don’t want to pay for it?

This debate is nothing more than political “bs” at its worst. “Fiscal Conservatism” is a brand with no substance. You cannot be a true fiscal conservative on one day and then borrow a trillion dollars for a wealth distribution plan the next.

The debt ceiling must be raised. It’s not about politics…its math. Get on with it!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hypocicy & Lies

HYPOCRICY THY NAME IS REPUBLICAN – Republicans are all about capitalism, free enterprise and the entrepreneurial spirit. They value the “I” over the collective “We.” They view government programs and social safety nets as handouts and bailouts for slackers and bums…a plague on that which made this country great.

So it is with great interest that we watched Republicans stand shoulder to shoulder with Democrats to pass a $1 trillion dollar five year extension of the Farm Bill.
The bill ends the system of subsidies paid directly to farmers that has been in place for 80 years and replaces it with a crop insurance program on steroids. Republicans joined hands with Democrats in praising the bill: “This bill will provide our ranchers and farmers with the security they need to invest in the future.”

Just so we’re clear… The same Republicans who have demonized government run health care under the ACA…voting 40+ times to repeal the bill…have just funded a $1 trillion dollar program that provides government run crop insurance for farmers and ranchers.

ACA bad…Farm bill good?

Just exactly how do free enterprise Republicans square taking $1 trillion tax dollars from the masses to a provide a small segment of our society “with the security they need to invest in the future.” Doesn’t this constitute a handout by the government? Just asking!

LIES AND MORE LIES – The ruckus you heard yesterday was the crush of gleeful Republicans rushing to microphones to comment on a headline featured in most news publications: “Obamacare Will Cost Economy 2 Million Jobs.”

The stories site recently released findings by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office that says that the ACA “will reduce full time equivalent employment by about 2.3 million in 2021.” Last May the CBO had set the figure at 800,000.

For Republicans this was Christmas morning revisited. The CBO had just confirmed that the ACA was an even bigger job killer than they thought. Hosanna in the highest!

This is what happens when you don’t do your homework.

If you take the time to look past the headlines and actually read the article you gain an entirely different perspective. Quoting the report: “The reduction in full time employment that the CBO expects will arise from the ACA includes some people choosing not to work at all and other people choosing not to work as fewer hours than they would have in the absence of the law.”

Translation…the report doesn’t predict that businesses are going to dump workers because of the law. In fact studies conducted in states like Massachusetts and Vermont where universal health care is law of the land show no such cause and affect. The CBO report says that the reduction in jobs will be because people will no longer be tied to jobs simply because the need the health care benefits the job provides. The ACA provides people with the freedom to leave the workforce or reduce their hours because they can obtain healthcare through the exchanges. A spouse whose job provides the family health care can now choose to stay at home with the kids and obtain the coverage through the ACA. An entrepreneur who wants to start his/her own business but has been shackled to an employer for need of the benefits can now follow their dream and get insurance coverage through the ACA.

Republicans will undoubtedly change their tune once their partisan misrepresentations are brought to light. Our guess is that they will portray the ACA as creating a whole new class of slackers and bums who would rather stay at home than work.

But they can’t have it both ways.

You can’t say that you stand for individual rights, freedoms and liberties and then criticize those who exercise their lawful rights.

Monday, February 3, 2014

"methinks thou doth protest too much"

The Chris Christie train wreck continues.

According to the New York Times, former Christie functionary David Wildstein’s lawyer has stated in a letter that “evidence exists as well tying Mr. Christie to the lane closures, during the period when the lanes were closed, contrary to what the governor stated publically in a two hour press conference.”

You may recall that the governor denied having any knowledge of the lane closures until after they were opened saying: “I had no knowledge of this…of the planning, the execution or anything about it…and that I first found out about it after it was over…and even then what I was told was that it was a traffic study.”

The governor’s office pushed back hard against Wildstein’s accusations. In an email titled “5 things You Should Known About The Bombshell That Is Not A Bombshell” the Christie administration proved once again that it is not ready for the prime time.
First they attacked the Times for its “sloppy reporting.”

Then they attacked Wildstein’s character by citing examples of questionable behavior from his days in HIGH SCHOOL: “He was publically accused by his high school social studies teacher of deceptive behavior.” The email concludes that “David Wildstein will do and say anything to save David Wildstein.”

Rule #1 in politics…”say little…for anything you say can and will be used against you.”

Rule #2…Greener’s Law as quoted by Mark Twain…”Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.”

“Say little!” Christie likes to hear himself talk. And he really likes to hear himself talk about himself. (See Keynote Speech/2012 Republican National Convention.) We knew weeks ago that Christie was in trouble when he stood before the press for the better part of two hours fielding questions about the GWB lane closures. He was so emphatic and specific in his denials of ANY involvement that the slightest misstatement of fact would lead to his downfall. Christie was so busy basking in righteous indignation that, according to Wildstein, he played loose with the facts.

Say little! During that press conference Christie publically threw three of his most trusted aides under the bus…Wildstein, former campaign manager Bill Stepien, and former deputy chief of staff Bridgett Anne Kelly. Not only did he fire them, he went out of his way to belittle them in front of a national audience. Wildstein is now publically seeking his own brand of political retribution. We have yet to hear from Kelly or Stepien. Our guess is that when we do it won’t be in full throated defense of the governor.

“Never argue with a man who buys ink by the barrel.” Shooting the messenger never works. Not only is it a sign of weakness it indicates that there is truth in the story. Christie is never going to win a war of words with the New York Times.

And finally…what is the deal with bringing up stuff Wildstein did in high school? Who among us wants to be held accountable today for our behavior as a 16 year old? Seriously? When Wildstein originally resigned Christie praised his tenure with the port authority. Suddenly the Christie administration is characterizing Wildstein as a man whose questionable character dates all the way back to his days in high school? If Wildstein has always been such a schmuck then why did the governor create a high level job for him at the port authority?

We have no idea if Christie orchestrated the GWB lane closures, lied to cover up the incident or in fact knew nothing about it. Time will tell.

We do however know this with great certainty. We know that he has surrounded himself with a gaggle of amateurs that will be crushed by the day to day scrutiny of a national election campaign. These recent events speak to Christie’s management skills in a very unflattering way. If you don’t have the discipline to whether this storm as governor then how are you going to withstand the pressure of a national campaign…or the White House? Neither Christie nor his staff has demonstrated that they are ready for the pressures of the national spotlight.

The national press has been wondering what affect these recent events will have on Christie’s presidential aspirations. From our prospective those aspirations are toast.

The more appropriate question is will Christie finish out his term as governor.