An American Editor

March 2, 2012

Politics: Negative Advertising

This is the political season in the United States. Sadly, the season has been in effect for months and still has many months to go.

I know that negative political advertising is more effective than positive, which is in itself a very sad commentary on Americans and the depths of their thinking and the limits of their attention spans, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Although all of the Republican candidates and their super-PACs (political action committees) are guilty of such advertising (and the Democrats will join them as the fall campaign gets closer), I’d like to see an “independent” PAC take on negative advertising.

Perhaps an ad should be run along the following lines, with equal time for all candidates who use negative advertising —

The background imagery would be the candidate whose negative ads are the subject of this ad, in this case Mitt Romney, and some of the candidate’s misstatements. The overnarration would run along these lines:

Why does Mitt Romney use negative ads? Is it because not even he can find anything positive or good to say about his beliefs and positions?

Why does Mitt Romney distort the truth about what others have said? Is it because Mitt Romney cannot tell lie from truth?

What kind of president would Mitt Romney be? How would America know whether or not he was lying to it?

Negative ads make candidates untrustworthy; presidents shouldn’t be untrustworthy.

Needless to say, one could substitute — currently — any of the Republican candidates for Mitt Romney, and I suspect that come the Republican vs. Democrat battle in the fall, one will be able to add Barack Obama to the list of players.

If I were to create a negative ad to support a candidate, I think I would use the following tag line (substituting, of course, the name of the candidate I was being negative about), which could also be a bumper sticker:

Mitt Romney — bringing America to her knees, one lie at a time!

(And for any of you politicians or politically oriented folk who are thinking about coopting these ideas, remember that they are copyrighted. I know politicians and their most fervent supporters often ignore copyright, but it really isn’t a good idea to do so.)

January 6, 2012

Worth Noting: What do Liberal & Conservative Really Mean?

I am always interested in words and their etymology. But, I admit, I’ve not given a lot of thought to the question “What does it mean to say someone is [liberal, conservative, revolutionary, reactionary, counterrevolutionary, etc.]?”

As if answering my unasked question, the current issue of The New York Review of Books tackles the matter as part of a book review. “Republicans for Revolution” by Mark Lilla tackles the problem as part of his review of “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin” by Corey Robin, a book that Lilla pans. (Interestingly, the book under review gets little attention in this article. Instead, the focus is on the meanings of the various labels.)

I think you will find the article interesting and worth reading and thinking about. (And, no, it is not a liberal diatribe against Republicans.) Once you get a grasp of what the labels really mean, the labeling of politicians changes. I particularly found it interesting how fluid the labels are depending on your view of human nature:

Is the unit of political life society or the individual? Do you view “society as a kind of inheritance we receive and are responsible for” and for which “we have obligations toward those who came before and to those who will come after, and these obligations take priority over our rights”?

Or do you “give individuals priority over society, on anthropological as well as moral grounds” and “assume that societies are genuinely constructs of human freedom, that whatever we inherit from them, they can always be unmade or remade through free human action”?

Hard questions with no firm answer, but questions that need resolution when applying a political label.

As always, if you are not a subscriber to The New York Review of Books but are a book lover, I recommend subscribing. I think it is the finest magazine of its type, and significantly better than the New York Times Book ReviewThe New York Review of Books is what the New York Times Book Review once was, decades ago, and what it should be today.

September 26, 2011

If They Were Editors, They Would Be Fired!

If they were editors, they would be fired! I’m referring to the Republicans contending for the Republican nomination to oppose Barack Obama in 2012.

The one thing that every client wants from an editor is consistency. If you chose to spell distension with -sion in chapter 1, then the client doesn’t want to see it spelled with -tion in subsequent chapters. Although “[a] foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines” (Ralph Waldo Emerson), editorial consistency is a positive trait because it is not a foolish consistency.

To demand that our politicians be consistent in a very broad sense is to deny them the possibility of intellectual growth and the ability to change as circumstances change, yet some consistency, especially on overarching policy, at least for a year or two, is warranted. Alas, as the Republican fight gets nastier, the inconsistencies in overarching policy grow.

Consider Rick Perry’s statements regarding children of illegal immigrants in Texas. Perry, rightfully I believe, encouraged the state legislature to allow children of illegal immigrants to attend state universities at in-state tuition rates. Needless to say, his current opponents are attacking that stance. What is Perry’s response? According to Perry, he has shown “heart” for these children who are in Texas through no independent action of their own. So far, so good.

Now ask Perry to show some heart for the citizen children who lack health insurance and thus fail to get needed drugs or treatment (26% of all Texas citizens lack health insurance), and he demurs, suggesting that it is not government’s role to provide health care for citizens, let alone for noncitizens. But there must be a stink of money somewhere, because Perry tried to force every adolescent girl to be inoculated at state expense against cervical cancer.

Similarly, look at Mitt Romney. His creation of a statewide health plan in Massachusetts with a requirement that everyone must purchase the insurance was the model for Obama’s national plan. In fact, there are very few differences, mostly minor, between the two plans. But ask Romney today and he boasts of his Massachusetts plan and derides Obama’s national plan. It must be that only citizens of Massachusetts are worthy of health care insurance.

Worst of all, however, are the candidates who ape Ron Paul and Michelle Bachmann. Their response, which the Tea Party cheered loudly, is that citizens need to be free to take their own risks and if they choose not to have health insurance and get sick, let them die. Of course, these wonderful candidates neglect to tell the audience how it is the members of the audience who would die because these showers of Christian charity all receive subsidized health insurance courtesy of us taxpayers. Interestingly, the one question they do not answer is what about those taxpaying citizens who want health insurance but can’t buy it? These folk don’t want to assume the risk but are forced to do so.

Another twist in all of the Republican candidates’ thinking is the issue of abortion. Each candidate loudly proclaims that they are prolife and antiabortion. There is nothing wrong with that position until one second after the child’s birth, when all of the candidates are willing to let the baby — or the birth mother or both — die if the parent doesn’t have health insurance. Republican-Tea Party caring seems to terminate as soon as the underlying political issue is no longer an issue.

America now has 50 million citizens who lack health insurance; that’s one-sixth of our population. Yet the people who make the decision about whether or not those 50 million men, women, and children should be given health insurance (which most would under Obama’s plan) all have taxpayer subsidized health insurance for themselves and their families.

To say that providing health insurance like Romney did in Massachusetts should be left up to the states is just another ploy. First, it would mean that many people could never migrate from their state no matter the opportunities elsewhere. Second, it would leave Americans subject to the whims of politicians. This year the Democrats are in control so we have health care; last year the Republicans were in control so we didn’t have it. Who knows what next year will bring.

Third, and perhaps most important, states like Texas would not provide universal (and probably not any state) coverage, but when an epidemic hit, would want the rest of the country to bail it out. (Notice the difference between the Republican federal emergency response to Hurricane Katrina and the Republican response to Hurricane Irene? In the former, Republicans demanded federal relief and got it within 10 days; now they obstruct relief.)

I sometimes wonder whether the Republicans are trying to find some way to make the country disintegrate — that is, do away with the concept of a United States and instead have 50 individual countries (I’m not sure what they would do about Washington, DC). Republicans like to talk of “state’s rights”; why not think, instead, of citizen rights.

July 23, 2011

Worth Noting: History’s Warning — A Voice from the Past

Filed under: Politics — Rich Adin @ 6:52 am
Tags: , ,

It seems that the Republican and Tea Party version of facts hasn’t changed in decades. Apparently, FDR faced the same battle:

June 15, 2011

On Politics: The Question Not Being Answered (or Even Asked)

At my age, I carefully follow any news that might impact my decision-making process regarding retirement. I also, regardless of age, watch for political news that might affect the taxes I pay. Being a New Yorker, I already am one of the highest taxed citizens of the United States.

Needless to say, the biggest potential impacts in current news are the Republican onslaught against universal healthcare, which Republicans have euphemistically labeled “Obamacare,” and the Republican plan to privatize (or voucherize) Medicare (and even Social Security). Neither really impacts me because I am in the “safe” age group (older than 55 years), at least insofar as the Republicans vocalize today (tomorrow the Republicans may change their mind); they do affect me, however, because I have children who will be impacted and because I do care what happens to my fellow citizens. Medicare and Social Security are the safety nets for the elderly. (Interestingly, many of the Republicans legislators who support the changes are well-to-do, have taxpayer-funded retirement and healthcare, and will not need either Medicare or Social Security to survive in their retirement years. Once they retire from Congress, they can get part-time lobbying jobs that will provide sustenance that Americans like me can only dream about!)

Yet I see one lingering question that I can’t seem to get a Republican congressperson to answer directly and clearly. Obfuscation seems to be the vocabulary word of the year and to make sure they remember the word, the Republicans practice it. The question is this:

If Obamacare’s individual mandate is unconstitutional, how can the Republican plan to require citizens to contribute to Medicare and receive in exchange a voucher for use in the private marketplace be constitutional? That is, what makes the individual mandate of required Medicare contribution and participation constitutional but not the mandate in Obamacare?

This really is an important question because it goes to the heart of Medicare even in its present form. (Worth noting, too, is that a citizen is required to apply for Medicare during a 6-month window at age 65 years, or be penalized.) Call it what you like, the reality is that citizens are being mandated to purchase Medicare (and Social Security) whether needed, wanted, or not, and semantics aside, I see no difference between those individual mandates and the Obamacare individual mandate. The end result is that the citizen is forced to buy healthcare coverage, whether wanted or not.

Note I’m not even talking about why Romneycare was great for Massachusetts’ citizens but the near-identical twin Obamacare isn’t great for Americans. (I did ask that question earlier, however, in The Forked Tongue Dialogues: Romneycare vs. Obamacare, and I still haven’t gotten an answer that makes sense. Worth noting is that many of the same Republicans who now oppose Obamacare praised Romneycare, although under Tea Party pressure they have “rethought” their earlier praise and now condemn Romneycare. All it took was a couple of clowns threatening primary fights against any Republican who didn’t recant for the great Republican flip-flop to occur. If only they would flip-flop on their “no taxes” pledge so we could logically and fairly solve the debt problem. I’m sure big oil would survive on profits of $30 billion rather than of $33 billion for the quarter.) All I want to know is this: Why is the individual mandate under Obamacare unconstitutional but the individual mandate the Republicans will impose under their Medicare privatization plan is constitutional?

I have asked this question in recent weeks of several Republicans — politicians and nonpoliticians. Either I have received no answer or I have received pablum statements talking about how great the Ryan budget proposal is for business (not for me as an individual, but for corporate America) and how the Republican privatization plan will bring back individual responsibility. No one will address the matter of how, under the Republican plan, limited-income seniors may have to eventually absorb as much as 65% of the cost of Medicare, the vouchers eventually covering only 35%. It is so difficult to pin a politician down. Do they run a special school for weaseling that is required for all new congresspersons and politicians?

While I wait for a cogent answer, which I suspect I will never get, I’m hoping some of the Republican attorneys-general who believe it is imperative to protect me from Obamacare will equally be prepared to protect me from Republicancare (or Ryancare if we want to keep the naming conventions consistent). Alas, I suspect that they view a Republican idea as god-given and god-driven and thus biblically mandated, unlike a Democrat idea, which obviously must be the work of some nefarious evil being.

Okay, perhaps I do exaggerate a minuscule amount, but not by much. From the moment Obama was sworn in as president, Republicans have called his presidency a failed presidency — and worked hard to make it a self-fulfilling prophecy. Yet many, if not most, of the policies that are Obama failures were initiated by Bush and called Bush successes — right up to the minute before Obama was sworn in and took the reins of government, so my exaggeration can’t be more than minuscule. Impressive, isn’t it, how, in less than a minute, industry bailouts can go from success to failure. All that is required is an oath-of-office ceremony.

Don’t get the idea that I think Obama has been a spectacular president. A Harry Truman, he is not. The buck clearly doesn’t stop at his desk. I think Obama has been a major disappointment as a leader on multiple levels. He has been a follower, not a leader, which, to me, has been and continues to be his greatest failure; his second greatest failure has been his focus on reelection. It sure would be nice to elect a president whose attitude was “America’s citizens first even if it means I don’t get reelected.”

I’m off track now, so let’s return to the subject at hand. If anyone can get an answer to my question — one that is really an answer and not some more pablum and one that is not semantical — I hope you’ll post it here. If the only answer we can get is a semantic one, then perhaps a few thousand whispers in Democrat ears to change the semantics of Obamacare would be appropriate to take the wind out of the Republican sails.

By the way — is anyone buying the Republican cry of Democrat distortion on the issue of Republican plans for Medicare? I find it amusing that Republicans consider Democrat characterizations of the Republican Plan as false and misleading but with the same forked tongue don’t consider Republican characterizations of Obamacare (remember, e.g., “death panels”) as false and misleading. Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

February 25, 2011

The Forked Tongue Dialogues: The Budget and Abortion

It seems that the Republican antiabortion wing is in a celebratory mood, having cut off funding for Planned Parenthood in the House budget legislation and tightening abortion restrictions. I’m not getting into the morality of abortion vs. no abortion; rather, I want to think about the forked tongue approach that the Republicans and antiabortion crowd take.

The problem is this: At the same time that abortion funding and family planning funds were cut, so were the funds that would provide medical care and food and education for all of the “saved children.” How hypocritical can one be! Save a life so that it can starve, suffer from illness, live in poverty, be uneducated. There is something wrong with this type of thinking.

What I see wrong is that the fight to prevent abortion isn’t really a fight to save lives; rather, it is a fight to save money gussied up in a moral argument. I’m waiting for one of the congresspersons who are antiabortion to come forward and offer to underwrite from their personal funds the costs for feeding, housing, and educating, as well as for medical needs, of the next saved child. They don’t come forward and make such an offer because the argument is not one of morality but one of money.

It seems to me that if you are going to insist that I adhere to your vision of morality, you should at minimum provide me with the tools necessary to do so, which is more than spouting words. You don’t want me to abort a fetus but you also don’t want me to be educated about family planning. You don’t want me to abort but you don’t think it necessary to provide me with a minimum, barebones way of feeding, housing, or educating the child. You don’t want me to abort yet you do not want to give me access to the medical care necessary to carry the fetus to term or take care of it after its birth.

Is there something missing in this dialog?

Common sense is missing. For every action there is a reaction is applicable not only to the dynamic of physics but to the dynamic of life. Every child born needs food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education. Unfortunately, under the current Republican view, the dynamic stops at “every child born” in the fantastical belief that every parent can adequately provide for their child on their own. Republicans used to boast that they were grounded in reality and that it was the Democrats who believed in fantasy, yet here they are disproving that self-assertion.

I agree that the federal deficit is a problem and that it must be addressed. I also agree that government is not the answer to every social ill. But if government is going to be the cause of the social ill, it has the responsibility to alleviate that ill or not create the ill in the first place — and that is what is at the heart of the abortion dilemma and why Republicans act in a forked-tongue manner.

Republicans claim to want government out of citizens’ personal lives. Wasn’t that the argument in the Second Amendment cases? Isn’t that the argument as regards Obamacare and mandatory participation? Yet the Republican tongue forks when it comes to keeping government out of the abortion muddle — one fork bans or restricts abortions, the other takes away the support system for those who don’t abort.

One can’t prevent all unwanted pregnancies by simply declaring unwanted pregnancy to be illegal, undesirable, antisocial, not worthy of funding. Nor can one prevent unwanted pregnancies simply by education. And we all know that although abstinence is the most effective method of preventing unwanted pregnancy, universal abstinence just doesn’t work. With all the dalliances outside marriage in which congresspersons seem to indulge, one would think that would be self-evident to congress, but apparently it is the typical story: do as I say, not as I do!

Consequently, if Republicans are going to ban or make abortion so restricted that it is in essence unavailable (except, of course, to politicians and the wealthy for whom abortion has always been available), then there is a corresponding duty to make available to the newborn and to children all of those services that are needed to ensure that the child grows healthily and receives the education needed to be a productive citizen.

February 23, 2011

The Forked Tongue Dialogues: Romneycare vs. Obamacare

Here’s my question, one that no potential Republican candidate for president has been willing to directly tackle, at least not to date: Why is Romneycare good for Massachusetts but bad for America?

I used to be a Republican, back when one didn’t have to pass a special test to be a Republican. Remember those days when what mattered was a belief that big government wasn’t the answer to all questions and people’s rights and well being were important mainstays of Republicanism? The days of the Rockefeller, Ford, even Reagan?

Civil Rights legislation passed in the 1960s because Republicans cared about people, not because Democrats were overwhelmingly in control. It was the Republican Everett Dirksen who ensured that there were enough Republican votes to pass Civil Rights and Medicare and other Great Society legislation as the Southern Democrats and the Dixiecrats rebelled.

But today, I couldn’t be a Republican even if I was desperate to be one because I couldn’t pass the ideological litmus test: I believe that what has made America great is that its politicians ultimately sought the middle ground and compromised. Today, “middle ground” and “compromise” are banned from the Republican lexicon.

Which brings me back to Romneycare. Massachusetts undertook, at the instigation of its then Republican governor, Mitt Romney (who desperately wants to be the next president of the United States), an overhaul of healthcare, requiring that every resident of Massachusetts have health insurance or pay a fine/tax — universal healthcare for Massachusetts. And it apparently is working. The latest information indicates that nearly 99% of Bay Staters are insured and that insurance premiums have declined over the past several years (or at least the rate of increase has declined) as compared to pre-Romneycare.

On the other hand, in my state, not only has it been difficult to get good healthcare insurance, it has been exceedingly expensive and every year premiums have increased by 20% or more over the prior year. Plus there is a large swath of residents who have no insurance, can’t get insurance, or can’t afford insurance. So I ask again: Why is Romneycare good for Massachusetts but bad for America?

Perhaps instead of calling it Romneycare I should call it Republicancare. Maybe then Republicans would own up to having “coerced” citizens of Massachusetts into buying healthcare insurance whether they wanted it or not. Why is it a good argument that Obamacare is unconstitutional because it “coerces” citizens to do something they do not want to do (buy health insurance) but Republicancare/Romneycare is constitutional because it “coerces” citizens to do something they do not want to do (buy health insurance)?

Clearly, or so I would think based on Republican Second Amendment arguments, Republicans don’t believe citizens lose their constitutional rights at the state border. So where is the Republican outrage against Republicancare/Romneycare for Bay Staters? I guess the answer is wrapped up in the old state’s rights argument — states can do harm but the federal government can’t.

The reason that argument fails (at least in my thinking) is that Republicancare/Romneycare has a direct impact on interstate commerce, which the federal government can regulate. So where are Mike Pence (R-Indiana), Michelle Bachmann (R-Minnesota), and Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), or even Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) when their help is needed? Why haven’t they, or one of them, introduced legislation to repeal the Bay State’s Republicancare/Romneycare and rescuing millions of Americans from fiscal enslavement? Or legislation cutting off all federal funding for that bit of socialized medicine?

The answer lies in the origins of that bit of state socialism: it was brought to America by Republicans and therefore cannot possibly be socialism or bad for the citizenry. So I ask yet a third time: Why is Republicancare/Romneycare good for Massachusetts but bad for America? Where is the moral outrage? Where are the witty Palinisms that rile up the Tea Party and the Republican right?

Obamacare is Republicancare/Romneycare just on a broader scale. But one would never know that by listening to the Republicans or the Tea Partiers. I offer this suggestion to Republicans and Tea Partiers: Solve the healthcare reform problem by repealing Obamacare and replacing it with Republicancare/Romneycare. Alternatively, a simpler and quicker approach would be to introduce legislation that renames Obamacare as Republicancare/Romneycare. Now you can trumpet your triumph over big government and socialized medicine yet show that you want to treat all Americans equally — a win-win for Republicans and Americans.

February 21, 2011

From Obamacare to Pencecare: The Illogical Republican

…or Sometimes You Just Gotta Keep Those Matches Away

I admit that since I became a thinking adult way back in the 1960s I have thought there was something wrong with America’s healthcare system. Even then a single-payer system made the most sense to me. But I wasn’t rabid about it. I did think that Medicare, which I strongly supported and wrote my first-ever political letter to my congressperson about, would be the baby step that would move us down that path. As history has demonstrated, 50 years later we haven’t really gone beyond either that first step or beyond the internecine wars regarding what is and isn’t a proper government role in healthcare.

I do respect the views of those who fear government encroachment into healthcare. I don’t discount some of their arguments as some of them do have merit. But I do discount and have little respect for those whose arguments essentially boil down to “your government intervention threatens my freedom and thus is bad; my government intervention threatens only your freedom and thus is good.” Alas, that is the rhetoric being applied to Obamcare (“your government intervention threatens my freedom and thus is bad”) and Pencecare (“my government intervention threatens only your freedom and thus is good”) by Republicans and Tea Partiers.

(For those who haven’t quite caught on, Pencecare is the healthcare plan that Congressperson Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, and his fellow Republicans and Tea Partiers would like to foist on me and America — essentially, fend for yourself. Obamacare needs no definition today.)

What raised my hackles this week was the cutting of all funding for Planned Parenthood, abortion under any circumstance, and Obamacare. I don’t agree with everything Planned Parenthood does; I don’t agree 100% with the current plans for Obamacare; I don’t agree that abortion should be lightly undertaken or given — but I more fervently do not agree that Planned Parenthood should be wholly defunded; that Obamacare is not good for America and should not be funded; or that all abortions should be prohibited or made so difficult to get as to de facto prohibit them. There needs to be middle ground.

The Republican illogic runs many paths. It is not that Democrats aren’t often illogical, they are, but when it comes to healthcare, budgets, and morals, today’s Republicans are significantly more illogical (and more likely to run amuck) than Democrats. Consider this bit of budget busting: According to budget-cutting Republicans it is logical for the U.S. military to spend millions of taxpayer dollars sponsoring NASCAR races (which as a sport has a declining fan base; it would have been more logical to sponsor NFL football) but it is illogical to fund Sesame Street or family planning or universal healthcare. There is a severe disconnect.

And hasn’t the Republican-Tea Party battle cry against Obamacare been government intrusion into personal healthcare decisions — putting the government between the patient and the doctor? OK, let’s step aside from whether I think I am more likely to get an unbiased and better-for-me decision about my healthcare from a government bureaucrat who doesn’t have to worry about quarterly returns for shareholders than from a private insurer whose staff bonuses are determined by how much profit the company makes, not by how much healthcare it delivers to its insured. Instead let’s look at what the Republicans-Tea Party combination wants to give us: Pencecare. Pencecare puts the government squarely between the patient and the patient’s doctor because it has predetermined that universally certain forms of healthcare shall be denied the patient. No ifs, ands, or buts.

The difference between Obamacare and Pencecare is the neutrality factor. Obamacare is neutral. It gives citizens a menu of choices, from among which the citizen can choose. In contrast, Pencecare dictates what is permissible healthcare; it gives no choice. Whereas under Obamacare the patient, the patient’s family, and the patient’s doctors can consider the totality of circumstances and choose to take action (and among actions) or inaction, under Pencecare the patient has no need to consider anything, the family’s decisions are irrelevant, and the doctor might as well not exist — the government has made the decision in advance and regardless of circumstances.

Pencecare is the Republican formulation of Sarah Palin’s “death panels” for the rest of America. Sarah Palin’s “death panels” were dealing with end-of-life decision making (should we, for example, spend $1 million dollars of taxpayer funds to prolong the life of a 90-year-old person for 30 days?); in contrast, the Pencecare “death panels” deal with beginning-of-life decision making (should we, for example, compel a 12-year-old girl who was raped by her father to carry the fetus to term even though it is likely that she will die during the childbirth process?).

The other difference between Obamacare and Pencecare “death panels” is that under Obamacare the end-of-life discussion was voluntary whereas under Pencecare the beginning-of-life discussion cannot be held — to discuss it is forbidden.

One other thing that is striking about Pencecare. Unlike Obamacare which affects all classes of Americans, Pencecare almost wholly affects the lower socioeconomic classes. Enacting Pencecare has to be a relatively easy thing to do when your income is $170,000+ a year, enabling you to financially skirt its effects, and it is clear that the primary people affected will be those who earn less than $35,000 a year and often less than $15,000 a year.

Voters gave the Republicans and Tea Partiers matches to play with in this past election. The Republicans and Tea Partiers seem to be giddy with excitement about finally being able to play with fire, and so indiscriminately keep lighting those matches. The problem is that such giddiness is blinding them to their own hypocrisy. The least we should expect is no hypocrisy.

(For one perspective on the availability and affordability of health insurance, see Money Won’t Buy You Health Insurance, written by Donna Dubinsky, a cofounder of Palm Computer and CEO of Handspring, who begins: “This isn’t the story of a poor family with a mother who has a dreadful disease that bankrupts them, or with a child who has to go without vital medicines. Unlike many others, my family can afford medical care, with or without insurance.”)

January 11, 2011

A Tea Party of the Alice-in-Wonderland Kind

Filed under: Politics — Rich Adin @ 10:35 am
Tags: , ,

The Tea Party movement is all the talk these days. The chances of electing Tea party doctrine adherents to public office is great, as the recent election shows (with the possible exception of the most extreme Tea Partiers like the Senate candidates in Nevada and Delaware). And if Theodore Roosevelt had been able to muster this kind of passion, perhaps his Bull Moose Party would have prevailed.

Yet no one has seriously considered the ramifications of the Tea Party positions. There has been some discussion of the contradictions, such as the desire to do away with Social Security and Medicare for future recipients but the unwillingness to give up their own Social Security and Medicare, but no following of the positions to their logical (or illogical) ends.

Has anyone considered that the final straw that broke the back of the extended family in the United States was the Eisenhower Interstate System, which made traveling across America easy and convenient? That was an unintended consequence of building the system (its original rationale was to create a way to quickly speed troops where they were needed in the event of a Russian invasion), but a consequence nonetheless. So what will the unintended consequences be of electing inflexible Tea Partiers to office? I guess we will soon know.

Consider the idea of going back to only those government agencies identified in the original Constitution. That immediately does away with tons of agencies and multiple cabinet offices, including the Department of Commerce which is responsible for the federal highway system. I can see it now — responsibility for repair and maintenance will fall to the states but without federal funding. Montana will complain loudly because it would have to charge each citizen multiple times what New York or Massachusetts would have to charge its citizens simply based on numbers. Montana has lots of highway miles in a difficult climate but few citizens. How happy will Montana Tea Partiers be? Or will Montana simply let the infrastructure crumble?

I may be one of the few who are bothered by the apparent need for the new Republican House of Representatives to waste time and energy to repeal the health care law, when they know it is purely symbolic. In light of all else that is problematic with America today, I would prefer to see the time and energy devoted to practical things that have a chance of being enacted and helping us on our way to full recovery. The problem with Republicans has always been the need for symbolism, even at the expense of bettering our country. After all these decades of such posturing, one would think the party would finally grow up.

If there was any hope of Republicans and Democrats turning more centrist and putting America first, that hope was shattered by the 2010 elections. I find it to be inherently wrong for any legislator to be so dogmatic that meeting in the middle is considered selling out. Take any congressional district and look at the vote — no candidate for office was elected by 100% of the voters, nor even close to 100%. So does that mean that the elected person intends to represent only a portion of his or her district? In today’s politics, yes, that is exactly what it means.

The rant against the health care legislation is the most galling of the partisanship approaches being taken in the current congress. On the one hand, Tea Partiers and Republicans rail against anything that might be considered a tax increase, at least in so far as it might be an increase for the top 1% of earners. And the cry is often heard that a tax increase will ravage small businesses, which are the economy’s backbone.

Well if the health care law is repealed, my taxes will shoot up because, among other things, I will lose the tax credit I am entitled to for providing health insurance. If the deduction is returned, that will be partial reimbursement, but there is a big difference between a credit and a deduction. So why aren’t the Tea Partiers rallying against that tax increase?

One of the other problems with both Republican and Tea Partiers’ thinking is Social Security. I’m still waiting for the first congressperson to give up his/her pension benefits (paid for by us taxpayers). I’m still waiting for the first Tea Partier to give up his/her Social Security and Medicare. Why is it that under the Republican/Tea Party plans the only ones who need to sacrifice are everyone but them?

Okay, one more bit of tomfoolery — well, maybe idiocy is a better word choice: If you don’t make cuts to Homeland Security and Defense budgets and you don’t increase taxes, how can you ever balance the budget and reduce the deficit? Even cutting Social Security and Medicare completely won’t do the trick.

I am not opposed to some of what the Republicans and Tea Partiers want in the broad sense. I agree that we need to balance the budget and reduce the deficit. (Interesting, isn’t it, that the Republican/Tea Party idol, Ronald Reagan, never submitted a balanced budget and never reduced the deficit — it took a Democrat, Bill Clinton, to accomplish that and provide a surplus that the Republicans flushed down the toilet.) But some common sense has to be part of the equation, something the Republicans/Tea Partiers, as they move further away from the center and toward the right, increasingly seem to lack.

Perhaps the Mad Hatter wasn’t so mad after all, at least not in comparison to the new Congress.

December 24, 2010

A Boost to My Pocketbook, But a Pain in My Heart

Filed under: Politics — Rich Adin @ 8:14 am
Tags: , , , ,

The recently enacted tax extension compromise was good for my pocketbook but bad for my children’s future and thus worries me greatly. It also makes me worry about the backbone of our Democrat politicians.

Why does it make me worry? Because of the 2% reduction in the employee Social Security contribution.

Let’s consider history a moment. Ever since Franklin Roosevelt introduced Social Security legislation, it has been under attack from the conservative right. The reasons have varied but ultimately it boils down to what distinguishes Republicans from Democrats: Republicans believe that the only safety net that government should provide is for the wealthy, a class they dream of joining, whereas Democrats believe there should be a safety net for those who are not wealthy and never will be wealthy. This is a fundamental philosophical difference and one that will become a chasm wider than the Grand Canyon in the Congress soon to be seated.

Over the years the right’s attack on Social Security has been thwarted. The most recent defeat was the plan to privatize a portion of Social Security. Can you imagine the mess most of us would be in had that plan come to fruition a few years ago? But now the Democrats have helped drive the first nail into the coffin of Social Security as a safety net. If there is one thing that can be said about Democrat politicians, it is that they are clueless.

Remember when the Bush-era tax cuts were enacted by the Republicans? What was the key to getting the tax cuts passed? It was the assertion that the cuts were temporary and would expire. The U.S. treasury would not lose those hundreds of billions of dollars forever. I suppose another key was the fanciful and fantasy belief that by giving the wealthy more money to spend, it would all trickle down to the middle and poor classes. Trickle is not what I would call what occurred; I feel more like a Robert Maplethorpe exhibit than the recipient of wealthy largesse.

So here the tax cuts are set to expire and what is the Republican hue and cry? To not extend the tax cuts would be a tax increase and they are adamantly opposed to a tax increase — even if just on millionaires and billionaires. I have to tell you how glad I am that the Republicans fought so bravely to maintain the wealthy’s ability to have both winter and summer homes and a Tiffany Christmas. But that is beside the point.

The point is that 42 Republicans stood together, united in refusing to do any of the countries business unless the wealthy got their tax cuts extended, with the preference that they be made permanent. What do you think will happen next year when the Social Security tax cut is supposed to expire?

It is like a perfect storm in the sense that the Republicans, with the help of Democrats, can accomplish two goals in by casting one stone. How better can they destroy Social Security for the future than to deprive it of finding, just as they plan to do to the health care reform measures. And when Democrats howl about how Social Security will be under financial threat, the Republicans will stand tall and united yet again in opposition to anything that smacks of a rise in taxes, which returning the Social Security tax rate to its 6.2% level would clearly be.

Of course there is the possibility that Republicans won’t object because basically the tax is a regressive tax on the middle- and low-income classes, not on the wealthy, but I doubt it. I expect that at some point the Democrats will realize they have been snookered yet again and my generation will be the last generation to collect Social Security as a safety net in old age.

I am always amazed at how ruthless Republicans can be and hapless Democrats are; I keep hoping that Democrats will suddenly get hit over the head with the frying pan and it will jostle their minds sufficiently to see that if they really want to be champions of the middle and lower classes, they need to give Republicans a dose of their own medicine. Alas, I expect that will never occur because Democrats tend to be leaderless.

This year was the 75th birthday of Social Security; I doubt we will celebrate its 100th.

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