Raise Your Hand And Repeat After Me …

Live, in the Iowa debate, all the Republican presidential hopefuls took the “no tax increases” oath.

[Update: The day after the Iowa straw poll, Tim Pawlenty dropped out. Rick Perry jumped in, and yes, in the September 7th debate he joined his ultra-conservative counterparts by raising his hand and taking the oath. Ross Perot has yet to be sighted.]

The moderator repeated the question, upping the stakes, asking if they would take a ten-to-one deal. Not one of them would. For clarity, he even asked them to raise their hands if they would refuse such a deal. They all raised their hands like good little Grover Norquist marionettes.

To me, this was the most revealing part of the debate. It means even if a bill offering 5 trillion dollars in cuts linked to only 500 billion (about half of what would be raised by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire) in new revenues came to their desk, they wouldn’t sign it. Such rigid ideology is not what this country needs and it’s not what the public is looking for. A majority of Americans favor higher taxes on the upper crust as part of a balanced approach to deficit reduction. None of the candidates on stage wanted to acknowledge that, not even Romney, who used just such a balanced approach to help balance the budget in Massachusetts.

Last week’s Standard and Poors announcement specifically listed the Republicans’ unwillingness to budge on revenues as a major reason for the downgrade. It appears none of the candidates even read the report. Or they don’t understand it. They continue to push the policies, lower taxes for the richest Americans and de-regulation, which led us here in the first place. They seem more interested in keeping their pledges to the kingmakers on “K” Street than fixing the problems on main street.

Hopefully, when Rick Perry enters the fray this weekend, he’ll bring Ross Perot and some pie charts along with him.

Everybody’s Ticked – It Must Be Democracy

The debt ceiling bill disappoints the far left and far right.

Half empty or half full?

 Like most major legislation passed by Congress, the debt ceiling bill has its critics on both the left and right. That’s because it was generated through weeks of negotiations and debate which ended in compromise. And that’s what democracy is all about.

The bill directs major cuts but doesn’t harm Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security. There is a promised vote on a balanced budget amendment, but no guarantee of its passage. The debt ceiling was raised high enough to get us into 2013 and oh yeah, the country didn’t default. Bonus!

Many on the left are upset with President  Obama. They think he gave away too much to the tea party radicals. But soon I think the tea party will be the group that starts complaining. By agreeing to the super committee and its triggers, the Republican leaders have opened the door to revenue hikes (mostly in the form of corporate loophole elimination) and cuts in defense spending, two sacred cows they were unwilling to approach during budget talks. If the super committee can’t agree on deficit reduction legislation and get it passed by the year’s end, deep cuts in defense will automatically be triggered. Medicare will also be cut, but not on the benefit side. Providers (doctors and hospitals) will take the hit. This will likely cause a further rift in the Republican party. These triggers are intended to press both parties into action, but it seems most of the pressure will be on the GOP because if the triggers are set off, Obama’s own OMB will decide where the cuts are made. Can you say, “Goodbye, red-state pork. So long, faith-based initiative. See you later, expensive weapons systems. Auf wiedersehen, intrusive TSA body scanners. Paychecks are going to be a little late Congress.” Okay, so the last item is a bit fantastical. I’m allowed to dream, aren’t I? 

Some have likened the tea party tactics, threatening default and economic catastrophe, to political terrorism. But I guess it’s okay to negotiate with terrorists every once in a while, especially if the terrorists happen to be really poor negotiators.

It’s Up To You New York, New York

Gay rights get a big lift from Albany.

New York lawmakers, Republicans and Democrats, have come together to do the right thing. In legalizing same-sex marriage, they have shown that this republic can still function on behalf of its citizens – can still chart a course as noble as the American heart. I applaud them.

And to the republic, for which it stands.

 

In the sticky heat of another New York summer, two hundred and thirty-five years ago, our founders fought the British in the marshes and estuaries of what would one day become the Empire State. Although the battle was lost, Washington and his troops were able to escape and regroup for what would unfold as a decisive winter campaign. The battle of New York was a key step in our nation’s independence. Over two centuries later, New York once again plays a pivotal role in an ongoing struggle for liberty. On behalf of my friends, Chuck, Kim, Beth, Lola, Andy, Karen and Sharon, thank you.

 

GOP is Still the SOP – Same Old Party

Republicans offer nothing new at New Hampshire debate.

I was really hoping someone would step forward last night and offer an actual plan for creating jobs in this country. Instead it was just a seven-headed rhetoric monster. None of them had a solution.

I spent the night in a political pumpkin patch for this, Linus?

 

Cutting taxes was the mantra. But no one explained how cutting taxes would create jobs. When the moderator specifically asked Pawlenty for proof that cutting taxes would create jobs, he dodged the question. When it was pointed out that Bush cut taxes and by the end of his second term we were losing 750, 000 jobs a month, there was again, no answer. But when asked how the former governor would create the 5% annual growth for ten years projected by his economic plan (a growth rate never seen by this country in its entire history, not even after WWII) his answer was, you guessed it, cut taxes.

Many other old standards were trotted out. Unleash regulation on oil, even though domestic oil production has gone up under Obama. Bailing out Chrysler and GM was wrong even though it saved American manufacturing jobs well beyond those two companies. Medicare won’t survive unless it’s changed, but repeal affordable health care because, among other things, it changes Medicare. Social Security is insolvent, even though it’s not. Restore the integrity of our armed forces by making its members lie about their sexuality. God and freedom are the best thing ever, unless you’re a muslim, then you better just watch your ass.

And the best one of all. Ronald Reagan. I worked with Ronald Reagan, I helped pass laws with Ronald Reagan, I delivered pizza to Ronald Reagan. Ronald Reagan signed into law gun controls, abortion rights and funds to fight AIDS. Ronald Reagan created huge deficits and, you guessed it, raised taxes. If he were running today, he wouldn’t even make it past the security guards, let alone find himself on stage with the rest of these posers.

Even though I disagreed with most of what was said last night, the biggest disappointment was having nothing new to disagree with. SOP.

Has Rush Lost His Touch?

Or were his numbers always inflated?

Just like the Enya song says, Rush's ratings are starting to ... sail away, sail away, sail away.

 

It seems that Rush Limbaugh’s numbers have been plummeting since October of last year. So far, he has lost one-third of his audience, and the trend shows no sign of stopping. In a report from Crains Business, the recent Arbitron ratings show a huge hit for Rush and for Sean Hannity (-28%). While they remain one and two in talk radio, the rapid and immense slide has to be alarming. Of course, neither man will admit any chink in their armor.

Ironically, such lack of professional introspection has probably contributed to their decline. Both shows screen calls severely, and if a dissenter does get through, they are generally crushed by the host’s heavy hand. In fairness to Hannity, he occasionally brings on proponents of opposing viewpoints, but few that aren’t so weak as to set off the straw-man detectors. Of course, they can run their show any way they want, but the absence of strong opposition makes for a fairly boring program. Most of their content sounds something like, blah-blah-blah, commercial, commercial, ad, promo, commercial, blah-blah-blah, unless of course, they are making some outrageous comment that is aimed at stirring up a response. And I have a hunch that any consultant or program director that mentions this flaw is summarily dismissed, so there is little chance that their formats will change in the near future. 

Defenders of Limbaugh have already started to rebut the early reports of his demise by arguing that the method of measuring ratings has changed. Apparently, Arbitron has moved from a survey-based system (prone to name-recognition bias) to a system involving more raw data. But if the ratings are simply more accurate, then Limbaugh’s numbers have been inflated all along. No less reason for concern, when advertisers find out.

Perhaps the most intriguing fallout from this news will be how Premiere Networks Radio reacts to the numbers. Premiere has articulated little concern over the decline in market share of their number one and two stars. But if they continue to push Limbaugh and Hannity with limited regard for their marketability, it will lend credence to the argument that critics on the left have long made – that right-wing talkers are owned by right-wing financiers with a greater interest in pushing their agenda than having their on-air products be profitable. That would be the ultimate hypocrisy from a devout promoter of the “let the market handle it” philosophy such as Limbaugh. Of course, one of the major elements of content on Limbaugh’s show, after blah-blah-blah, is hypocrisy.

Time to Put Up or Shut Up, Tea Party

With no viable presidential candidate and their hands out to lobbyists, the tea party is starting to show its true colors.

So, it wasn’t about reform after all. Changing Washington, offering a choice beyond the corporatist Democrat vs. corporatist Republican paradigm … those were the promises made by the tea party. They have clearly failed to deliver.

Is there tea in their mug, or pork?

After the  joint press conference (debate?) given by the Republican candidates willing to show up last week, I don’t see tea party views being exclusively espoused by any one candidate, not one with a chance of winning, anyway. Ron Paul is probably the most notable of the names, but legalizing heroin is not a tea party priority and even less likely to be in the Republican platform come convention time. The tea party heavyweights, Bachmann and Palin, haven’t managed to announce yet. (That Fox money will have to end as soon as the official word is given. Kind of  an ego-centric rationalization for someone wanting to change Washington for the good of America.)

And just how much change does either one really want? Palin is a rhetoric regurgitation machine with no plan for anything, unless “reload” can be considered a policy. And Bachmann might lose favor with the tea party faithful when they hear that she is pushing for $633 million dollars in taxpayer money for a bridge, yes a bridge, in her district. Sounds like an ear-mark to me. And she also has taken a quarter of  a million dollars in farm subsidies since 1995. That’s not a problem in her ag-minded Minnesota district, but it could be a problem when courting a national tea party constituency.
 
And speaking of taking money, the tea party freshman seem fairly adept at it. After vowing to change Washington, it looks like business as usual. As reported in the New York Times and Washington Post as well as by the Sunshine Organization, the “reformers” have beaten a path to K Street, knocking on the doors of big oil, big coal and big pharma lobbyists with their hands out. Meanwhile, they didn’t repeal health reform, they haven’t made a dent in the deficit and they probably won’t stop the debt limit from being raised. They did manage to get the President to release an official document from 1961. Wow. I wonder how much taxpayer money was wasted on that endeavor.
 
Presidential elections are about winning the “middle”. So far, the tea party has done little to appeal to the middle. They rail against the deficit, but the repeal of  health reform (according to the CBO) would actually add to it. Besides, jobs are polling as a higher priority than the deficit among likely voters. And the tea party has no jobs program, aside from cutting taxes, which hardly matters to someone who is unemployed.
 
The tea party better start producing or they might suffer the same fate as their platitude-laced signs the day after the election. Left out in the rain. Forgotten. Someone else’s mess.

My Cyber Apple

Rush Limbaugh adds teachers to his list of scapegoats.

I wonder if Rush Limbaugh ever brought an apple to his teacher. If he did, it probably had a worm in it. On his February 17th show, in regard to the protests in Wisconsin, Limbaugh stated, “… all the parasites of government are now coming out … that’s exactly what they are, parasites.” He also claimed, erroneously, that public sector union members make double the average American worker’s income. The average income for all Americans across all occupations, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, is $45,485. The average teacher’s salary, according to the American Federation of Teachers, is currently $47,602. That’s nearly identical, not double.

So, contrary to what the drug-addled hypocrite is spewing, teachers are not some special interest group looking to sink their parasitic fangs into the taxpayer’s wallet. They earn average wages while performing extraordinary services vital to the future of our society. As Thomas Jefferson professed over two centuries ago, a democracy is impractical without a citizenry that is educated. Instead of vilifying teachers, we should thank them.

The following is a list, in no weighted order, of some of my favorite teachers:

My parents (my father by vocation, my mother by inspiration), my niece, Dr. Jim Black, Mrs. Wade, my cousin, Jesus, Todd Steenhard, Mr. Snelson, Carl Sagan, Lao-tzu, Mrs. Shaver, Mr. Thuot, Paul K. Haeder, Robert Gover.

Thank you.

Who are some of your favorites?

Perks of the educator.