Monday, January 31, 2011

Charles Krauthammer Hypocritically Attacks President For Taking Too Long To Mention Debt, Entitlements

Charles Krauthammer's Friday op-ed piece for The Washington Post was full of hypocrisy.
The November election sent a clear message to Washington: less government, less debt, less spending. President Obama certainly heard it, but judging from his State of the Union address, he doesn't believe a word of it. The people say they want cuts? Sure they do - in the abstract. But any party that actually dares carry them out will be punished severely. On that, Obama stakes his reelection.

No other conclusion can be drawn from a speech that didn't even address the debt issue until 35 minutes in. And then what did he offer? A freeze on domestic discretionary spending that he himself admitted would affect a mere one-eighth of the budget.

Obama seemed impressed, however, that it would produce $400 billion in savings over 10 years. That's an average of $40 billion a year. The deficit for last year alone was more than 30 times as much. And total federal spending was more than 85 times that amount. A $40 billion annual savings for a government that just racked up $3 trillion in new debt over the past two years is deeply unserious. It's spillage, a rounding error.

As for entitlements, which are where the real money is, Obama said practically nothing. He is happy to discuss, but if Republicans dare take anything from granny, he shall be Horatius at the bridge.
Krauthammer attacks the president for not mentioning the debt issue sooner in his speech, but what do you suppose he would say about Republicans promising to address high unemployment as soon as they assumed office but instead decided to pass symbolic conservative legislation instead?

Also, Krauthammer criticizes the president for not saying much about cutting entitlements, but if you recall during the health care reform debate Republicans tried to frighten seniors by pointing to a half trillion dollars in cuts to Medicare, and Krauthammer is guilty of feeding into the fear with his own Washington Post op-eds.
However (life is a vale of howevers) suppose these provisions were bundled into a bill that also spelled out how the goodies are to be paid for and managed -- say, half a trillion dollars in new taxes, half a trillion in Medicare cuts (cuts not to keep Medicare solvent but to pay for the ice cream, steak and flowers), 118 new boards and commissions to administer the bounty-giving, and government regulation dictating, for example, how your steak is to be cooked. How do you think this would poll?
Krauthammer mischaracterized the Medicare cuts then and now that health care reform has been passed he has jumped on the other side of the fence and criticizes the administration for not cutting entitlements.

Harry Reid Vows To Defend Social Security

Ryan Grim wrote the following for The Huffington Post:
As Congress debates measures to reduce the deficit, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) declared Social Security "off the table" in a web video posted Monday.

Reid's sweeping rejection comes as congressional Republicans are calling for reductions in Social Security benefits, arguing that cuts to the program should be part of any long-term deficit reduction plan.

"The reason they're going after Social Security is that's where the money is," Reid said. "They want to take money that isn't theirs."

The video is of a Capitol event with the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a frenemy of the majority leader that accused him of being a weak leader during the public option fight. Reid and the PCCC -- an online progressive advocacy group that claims more than half a million members -- are in full agreement, however, when it comes to Social Security. The PCCC held the event to thank Reid for taking an aggressive stand recently in defense of the old-age and disability insurance program.

"As long as I'm the majority leader, I'm going to do everything within my legislative powers to prevent privatizing or eliminating Social Security -- put simply, say, 'It's off the table,'" said Reid in remarks that will likely be referenced in the future as the debate over Social Security continues.
I highlighted the above quote for a reason - this is exactly the kind of language Democrats need to start using to fend off a Republican takeover of the remainder of government in the coming years.  Reminiscint of the ignorant signs held by scared - by conservatives - town hall goers, demanding government stay away from their Social Security, Democrats need to hammer that message home.

Democrats are defending your Social Security.

Democrats are defending your Medicare.

Democrats are defending your Medicaid.

Democrats are defending your health care.

If Democrats can frame the upcoming battle as Republicans attempting to take away what is ours, they will win.  Right now Republicans are playing that game with a similar message: "Democrats are destroying our America."

Another Federal Judge Rules Health Care Law Unconstitutional

From a New York Times article by Kevin Sack:
A second federal judge ruled on Monday that it was unconstitutional for Congress to enact a health care law that requires Americans to obtain commercial insurance, evening the score at two-to-two in the lower courts as the conflicting opinions begin their path to the Supreme Court...

Judge Roger Vinson of Federal District Court in Pensacola, Fla., ruled that the law will remain in effect until all appeals are concluded, a process that could take two years. However, Judge Vinson determined that the entire law should fall if appellate courts agree with his opinion that the insurance requirement is invalid...

In a 78-page opinion, Judge Vinson held that the insurance requirement exceeds the regulatory powers granted to Congress under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Judge Vinson wrote that the provision could not be rescued by an associated clause in Article I that gives Congress broad authority to make laws “necessary and proper” to carrying out its designated responsibilities...

The ruling by Judge Vinson, a senior judge who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, solidified the divide in the health litigation among judges named by Republicans and those named by Democrats...

The Florida plaintiffs, led by the state’s former attorney general, Bill McCollum, ensured they would draw a Republican-appointed judge by filing the lawsuit in Pensacola. Mr. McCollum left office this month after losing last year’s Republican gubernatorial primary, but his successor, Pam Bondi, also a Republican, fully supports the lawsuit. 
I thought this was interesting because it appears Republicans, in order to get the ruling they want, decided to file in a Republican-friendly court, where they were likely to get a judge appointed by one of their own.  

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pick Of The Week

Monday, January 24th, 2011

Rick Perry Uses Federal Money To Save State From Ruin While Criticizing Bailouts

In another show of conservative hypocrisy, William Alden of The Huffington Post noted that Texas had used billions of dollars in federal money to fill budget gaps in order to maintain the states emergency fund, all the while attacking the very notion of government bailouts.

This is the same hypocrisy we have seen since the Democrats won the presidency in 2008.  Republicans had no qualms attending ribbon cutting ceremonies for the policies they spent months attacking - and continue attacking.

It appears their actions serve one purpose, and that is to regain power.  Desperate to win the house, the senate, and the white house, Republicans are willing to say or do anything, and if that means collecting federal money in order to maintain the apperance in the public eye that they know whats best, then they will do it.

Glenn Beck Chimes In On Keith Olbermann Departure

Glenn Beck has no problem talking about things he has no knowledge about, and the departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC is one of those things - Beck decided to speak, as though it were fact, that Olbermann was kicked off the rival cable station because he was uneasy to work with.  Beck also insisted Olbermann's ratings were in the toilet.

What Glenn Beck fails to mention is that his audience's size was comparable to Olbermann's, and when looking at the numbers, his ratings have been in a steady decline for some time, bleeding hundres of thousands of viewers in just a couple months, while Olbermann's ratings had remained rather consistent.

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Rep. David Dreier Lies About Education, Child Nutrition Cuts In Regards To Symbolic GOP Bill

I initially dismissed this story but then I read an interesting statement by David Dreier - he insisted no body was trying to get in the way of funding veterans, education, and child nutrition programs.  Further investigation revealed that Dreir was mistaken and seemed to be suffering from right-wing amnesia as well - Dreier had a long voting history targeting government education programs and agencies, being named by Think Progress who along with 110 other incumbents and candidates, throught their voting record and statements, showed a desire to shut down the Department of Education.

Also, Dreier was one of the 170 Republicans in the House that attempted to block Democratic child nutrition legislation by using a procedural vote.  That attempt failed.

What exactly did Dreier mean again when he said "There is no one in this body who wants to gut funding for important programs for our veterans or education, child nutrition?

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

A Review Of Sarah Palin's Idiotic SOTU Response

Sarah Palin thought it was necessary to join the ranks of Paul Ryan and Michele Bachmann and offer her own take on the Barack Obama's State of the Union address, but as usual with the quitter of Alaska, her Facebook post was full of propaganda, hypocrisy, and inaccuracies.

Palin ignored facts, claiming the president has raised taxes on America, despite the contrary, and insisted investment in technology and infrastructure were nothing more then "half-baked ideas." Palin even asserted on Greta Van Susteren's program on Fox News that Obama's "Sputnik moment," or the challenge of American dominance by world powers like China (which has the fastest trains and computers), is the reason why the Soviet Union fell - she believes the space race placed the U.S.S.R. into crippling debt nearly 30 years later. Palin presumably made these comments for two reasons - one was to associate current government spending to the fall of a nation(U.S.S.R.) and the other was to absolve Reagan of his sins - a popular attribution to the fall of the Soviet Union was the arms race and the willingness of President Reagan to sign checks.

As usual, Palin's note was void on details and extremely partisan.

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Michele Bachmann's Teleprompter Hypocrisy

The internet has been buzzing for a few days about the SOTU response by Michele Bachmann, and some have been eager to point out the hypocrisy of the video. Bachmann was criticized for looking off camera during her delivery, but the official explanation is that Bachmann was reading off a teleprompter. This is interesting because Bachmann had insulted the president for relying on a teleprompter to make past deliveries.

Not stopping there, the right-wing blogosphere had decided to step in on Bachmann's defense insisting we move on and forget the whole teleprompter debacle, and some took it even further - Andrew Breitbart seemed to think it was a conspiracy to discredit Bachmann.

Michele Bachmann's Teleprompter Hypocrisy

I had yet to watch tea party darling Michele Bachmann's tea party response to the presidents State of the Union address, but I had read it, which is why I may not have noticed the controversy behind Bachmann's broadcast, where individuals had pointed out that in one of the videos, Bachmann does not appear to be looking into the camera, instead looking off to the side.  It was not until a couple days ago that TeaPartyHD, the television and internet network behind the video, has come out with an explanation for why Bachmann was not looking into the camera to speak to her minions.

The Star Tribune reported as to why she was looking off camera:
The reason, it appears, is that Bachmann delivered her speech to TeaPartyHD’s camera, which had the teleprompter she used. But most of the world – well, nation – saw the footage shot by network cameras that were allowed to video the speech.
This is peculiar because Bachmann has criticized the president's usage of a teleprompter in the past.  In 2009, referring to the president's stimulus and budget, Bachmann made the following joke:

"We have seen an orgy of spending [break in the tape]. ... The government spent its wad. ... Notice there's no TelePrompter here."

It also did not take long for the right-wing to quickly come to the defense of Bachmann.  Dana Loesch on Big Journalism insisted that reading from a teleprompter is not a "defining qualification for presidential consideration" and urges people to "move on now."  Media Matters had on hand plenty of instances where Andrew Breitbart's websites published anti-Obama teleprompter headlines, including the Loesch story.

It also did not take long for Andrew Breitbart to imply there is some sort of liberal media conspiracy out there trying to "sabotage" Bachmann's response.

Fox News reported:
Our sources tell us that CNN had originally agreed to use the live feed set up by Tea Party Express, which had a teleprompter running on the lens in which Rep. Bachmann was delivering her speech. But, when Rep. Bachmann left the camera set-up and sat in the House chamber to hear Pres. Obama's speech, CNN set up a camera of their own, just off to the side of the main, tele-prompter/camera. Thus, when CNN provided their network feed it ended up skewed and off-kilter.
I'm really not going to go into detail about Bachmann's presentation, because it is one giant propaganda piece, butI just wanted to mention that in the beginning of the video, Bachmann points to a bar graph indicating national unemployment.  Bachmann differentiated between the Bush administration and the Obama administration, but she failed to indicate just exactly why unemployment was so high shortly after the president was elected.  She seemed to imply Democratic policies and ineffectiveness were the cause for the spike - Bachmann failed to mention anything that may have indicated otherwise, such as the the collapse of the housing market, the bankruptcy of the American automotive industry, or the Wall Street credit crunch, to name a few.

Basically, Bachmann's tea party video was nothing but pure right-wing propaganda. 

Thursday, January 27, 2011

A Review Of Sarah Palin's Idiotic SOTU Response

The Alaskan Claptrap, Sarah Palin, has decided to weigh in on the president's State of the Union address today, and I thought it would be interesting to add some commentary to the former half-term governor's Facebook note.  My commentary will be in red italics (links are blue).

The President’s State of the Union address boiled down to this message: “The era of big government is here as long as I am, so help me pay for it.” He dubbed it a “Winning The Future” speech, but the title’s acronym seemed more accurate than much of the content.

Very funny.  I wonder how long it took her staff to come up with that one.

Americans are growing impatient with a White House that still just doesn’t get it. The President proves he doesn’t understand that the biggest challenge facing our economy is today’s runaway debt when he states we want to make sure “we don’t get buried under a mountain a debt.” That’s the problem! We are buried under Mt. McKinley-sized debt. It’s at the heart of what is crippling our economy and taking our jobs. This is the concern that should be on every leader’s mind. Our country’s future is at stake, and we’re rapidly reaching a crisis point. Our government is spending too much, borrowing too much, and growing too much. Debt is stifling our private sector growth, and millions of Americans are desperately looking for work.

Palin adds a bunch of rhetoric without really offering an alternative - something she couldn't do on Palin-friendly Greta Van Susteren's program.  She also references Mt. McKinley so we can't possibly forget that she is from Alaska and is a Washington outsider...

So, what was the President’s response? At a time when we need quick, decisive, and meaningful action to stop our looming debt crisis, President Obama gave us what politicians have for years: promises that more federal government “investment” (read: more government spending) is the solution.

Actually, the president did give "quick, decisive, and meaningful action"to combat America's economic crisis in the form of economic stimulus programs, bailouts, joblessness aid, and health care reform but the conservatives decided to criticize every action taken by the Democrats and the administration and have made it their goal to return to the way things were before Obama took office, and we all saw where that landed us.

He couched his proposals to grow government and increase spending in the language of “national greatness.” This seems to be the Obama administration’s version of American exceptionalism – an “exceptionally big government,” in which a centralized government declares that we shall be great and innovative and competitive, not by individual initiative, but by government decree. Where once he used words like “hope” and “change,” the President may now talk about “innovation” and “competition”; but the audacity of his recycled rhetoric no longer inspires hope.

How different is this language from that used by the tea party - they too talk about American greatness and ingenuity, and Palin is one to criticize "recycled rhetoric" - her speaking engagements are just cut-and-paste jobs, with some quick Googling for topical relevance.

Real leadership is more than just words; it’s deeds. The President’s deeds don’t lend confidence that we can trust his words spoken last night.

Okay - deeds.  If that is the case, what "deeds" has Sarah Palin accomplished that equates to real leadership?  

Quitting the governorship of Alaska to become a conservative celebrity entertainer?  

Forgo communicating with the general public, opting to use instead social networking websites that offer one-way exchanges?  

Fabricate stories intended to portray her family as the victim of an overreaching liberal conspiracy in order to empathize with those she seeks support from?

In the past, he promised us he’d make job creation his number one priority, while also cutting the deficit, eliminating waste, easing foreclosures in the housing markets, and making “tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.” What did we get? A record $1.5 trillion deficit, an 84% increase in federal spending, a trillion dollar stimulus that stimulated nothing but more Tea Party activism, 9+% unemployment (or 17% percent if you include those who have stopped looking for work or settled for part time jobs), 2.9 million home foreclosures last year, and a moratorium on offshore drilling that has led to more unemployment and $100 dollar a barrel oil.

Palin attacks the president's promise of making job creation a top priority, but as we see with the newly elected congress, Republicans promised a focus on job creation but instead decided to push a series of mostly symbolic legislation through (health care reform repeal, Washington D.C. gay marriage repeal).

Palin also asserts that the moratorium on offshore drilling has led to more unemployment and increased gas prices, but as anybody with a brain knows, the amount of crude oil produced off the coasts of Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas is not enough to drastically impact the immediate price of oil.  America is more at the whims of OPEC and the environment - environmental factors, also known by economists as "exogenous shocks," also play an important role in energy markets, and not to be technical or anything, while crude is up 14.57 percent over last year, the price is still less then $100 dollars a barrel - $89.11

Palin's over-simplification of oil prices and unemployment reminds me of another Palin misconception - the 1950s/60s space race was the real cause for the fall of the Soviet Union, because developing the Sputnik spacecrafts, not the arms race with the United States and escalated under President Reagan, placed the USSR into a debt crisis.  How was the Soviet Union capable of even amassing their arsenal if they were in debt over their space program?

The President glossed over the most important issue he needed to address last night: spending. He touched on deficit reduction, but his proposals amount to merely a quarter of the cuts in discretionary spending proposed by his own Deficit Reduction Commission, not to mention the $2.5 trillion in cuts over ten years suggested by the Republican Study Committee. And while we appreciate hearing the same President who gave us the trillion dollar Stimulus Package boondoggle finally concede that we need to cut earmarks, keep in mind that earmarks are a $16 billion drop in the $1.5 trillion ocean that is the federal deficit. Budget cuts won’t be popular, but they are vitally necessary or we will soon be a bankrupt country. It’s the responsibility of a leader to make sure the American people fully understand this.

Palin references the RSC study to reduce the debt, but as I had pointed out in a previous post, most suggestions were clearly partisan in nature and offered no solution to the economic crisis, and in some instances actually were contradictory to the stated goal of the GOP, such as elliminating programs designed to promote American business interests globally.

As it is, the American people should fully understand that when the President talks about increased “investments” he’s talking about increased government spending. Cut away the rhetoric and you’ll also see that the White House’s real message on economic reform wasn’t one of substantial spending cuts, but of tax increases. When the President talks about simplifying the tax code, he’s made it clear that he’s not looking to cut your taxes; he’s looking for additional tax revenue from you. The tax “simplification” suggested by the President’s Deficit Reduction Commission would end up raising taxes by $1 trillion over the next decade. So, instead of bringing spending down in line with revenue, the President wants to raise our taxes to pay for his massive spending increases. It’s tax and spend in reverse: spend first, tax later.

Palin argues that the White House's message was really about substantial "tax increases," but as facts show, under Obama's administration most Americans saw a tax cut, and in the past couple years, the president had signed eight small business tax cuts into law.

And the Obama administration has a lot of half-baked ideas on where to spend our hard-earned money in pursuit of “national greatness.” These “investments,” as the President calls them, include everything from solar shingles to high speed trains. As we struggle to service our unsustainable debt, the only thing these “investments” will get us is a bullet train to bankruptcy.

Palin asserts things like advanced solar technology and high speed trains are "half-baked ideas" - Palin's reference of "solar shingles" is interesting because in this note she also argues for energy indepence, but the only solution she has offered up has been drilling for oil in the Gulf of Mexico.  I also find the argument against high speed trains to be ridiculous - I guess America's infrastructure should remain antiquated.  Palin, and conservatives in general, constantly attack the president for making comments they construe as being apologetic for American activities or dismissive of American greatness, but in this instance, Palin and her conservative friends are the ones who stand in the way of innovation.

New periods of geographic expansion require new systems of infrastructure. Ever since the days of the canals, the early railroad, and streetcar suburbs, we've seen how infrastructure and transportation systems work to spur new patterns economic and regional development. The streetcar expanded the boundaries of the late 19th and early 20th century city, while the railroad moved goods and people between them. The automobile enabled workers to move to the suburbs and undertake far greater commutes, expanding the geographic landscape still further.

Mega-regions, if they are to function as integrated economic units, require better, more effective, and faster ways move goods, people, and ideas. High-speed rail accomplishes that, and it also provides a framework for future in-fill development along its corridors. Just as development filled-in along the early street-car lines and the post-war highways, high-speed rail will encourage denser, more compact, and concentrated development with growth filling in along its routes over time. Spain's new high-speed rail link between Barcelona and Madrid not only massively reduced commuting times between these two great Spanish cities, according to a recent New York Times report, it has also helped revitalize several declining locations along the line.

It's time to start thinking of our transit and infrastructure projects less in political terms and more as a set of strategic investments that are fundamental to the speed and scope of our economic recovery and to the new, more expansive economic geography required for long-run growth and prosperity.

With credit ratings agency Moody’s warning us that the federal government must reverse the rapid growth of national debt or face losing our triple-A rating, keep in mind that a nation doesn’t look so “great” when its credit rating is in tatters.

Of course, it’s nice to give a speech calling for “investment” and “competition” in order to reach greatness. It’s quite another thing to advocate and implement policies that truly encourage such things. Growing the federal government is not the answer.

Palin correctly cites the concerns of credit rating agency Moody's, as stated in this recent Wall Street Journal article, but ignores the point of their warning - American budget woes need to be addressed.  Currently, America has the highest credit rating and has a stable outlook by not only Moody's, but credit rating agency Standard & Poor's as well, and it is interesting that Palin's criticism of the president is contrary to the advice of the credit rating agencies - while Obama has advocating invest in America to strengthen the economy, Palin would rather accelerate destructive policies in order to alleviate present pains.

Take education for example. It’s easy to declare the need for better education, but will throwing even more money at the issue really help? As the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner notes, “the federal government has increased education spending by 188 percent in real terms since 1970 without seeing any substantial improvement in test scores.” If you want “innovation” and “competition,” then support school choice initiatives and less federal control over our state and local districts.

By "school choice initiatives," does Palin include initiatives like changes to school curriculum as made by the right-wing Texas board of education, or school prayer (everyone knows praying to Jesus increases test scores 10 - 20 percent but if only the pesky federal government would allow it in public schools).  Again, Palin is short on specifics, and I am certain any proposal by the president would only be met with stiff opposition from conservatives.

When it comes to energy issues, we heard more vague promises last night as the President’s rhetoric suggested an all-of-the-above solution to meeting our country’s energy needs. But again, his actions point in a different direction. He offers a vision of a future powered by what he refers to as “clean energy,” but how we will get there from here remains a mystery. In the meantime, he continues to stymie the responsible development of our own abundant conventional energy resources – the stuff we actually use right now to fuel our economy. His continued hostility towards domestic drilling means hundreds of thousands of well-paying jobs will not be created and millions of Americans will end up paying more at the pump. It also means we’ll continue to transfer hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars to foreign regimes that don’t have America’s interests at heart.

Palin believes the development of clean energy "remains a mystery" and currently, oil "[fuels] our economy," which is a ridiculous assertion.  If anything, oil inhibits economic growth - its price tag just determines the rate of which the economy expands or contracts.  Palin seems to focus completely on domestic oil production, ignoring the potential for job growth in regards to alternative energy sources, such as nuclear power.  An analysis by Oxford Economics indicates the potential nuclear energy presents, and as a side note, the conservative Heritage Foundation had referenced this study in the past as evidence nuclear power offers greater "green job" growth opportunities.  If only the oil-connected conservatives who continue to push drilling as the only remedy to high crude prices would step aside and let meaningful energy legislation come to fruition.

On the crucial issue of entitlement reform, the President offered nothing. This is shocking, because as he himself explained back in April 2009, “if we want to get serious about fiscal discipline…we will have to get serious about entitlement reform.” Even though the Medicare Trust Fund will run out of funds a mere six years from now, and the Social Security Trust Fund is filled mainly with IOUs, the President opted to kick the can down the road yet again. And once again, he was disingenuous when he suggested that meaningful reform would automatically expose people’s Social Security savings to a possible stock market crash. As Rep. Paul Ryan showed in his proposed Roadmap, and others have explained, it’s possible to come up with meaningful reform proposals that tackle projected shortfalls and offer workers more options to invest our own savings while still guaranteeing invested funds so they won’t fall victim to sudden swings in the stock market.

Palin claims the president is allowing entitlements to become insolvent by doing nothing.  How is this any different from conservative proposals, such as canceling Social Security for anyone under the age of 55, which would essentially equate into a tax hike on those individuals who put money into the system for years, if not decades.  Palin applauds Paul Ryan's plan but as the Congressional Budget Office notes, Ryan's plan would actually cost more then our current one, and the process of privatization would also cost the federal government some money.

You can argue whether this cost control is better or worse than other forms of cost control. But it's a blunt object of a proposal, swung with incredible force at a vulnerable target. Consider the fury that Republicans turned on Democrats for the insignificant cuts to Medicare that were contained in the health-care reform bill, or the way Bill Clinton gutted Newt Gingrich for proposing far smaller cuts to the program's spending. This proposal would take Medicare from costing an expected 14.3 percent of GDP in 2080 to less than 4 percent. That's trillions of dollars that's not going to health care for seniors. The audacity is breathtaking.

But it is also impressive. I wouldn't balance the budget in anything like the way Ryan proposes. His solution works by making care less affordable for seniors. I'd prefer to aggressively reform the system itself so the care becomes cheaper, even if that causes significant pain to providers. I also wouldn't waste money by moving to a private system when the public system is cheaper. But his proposal is among the few I've seen that's willing to propose solutions in proportion to the problem. Whether or not you like his answer, you have to give him credit for stepping up to the chalkboard. 
And what about that crucial issue confronting so many Americans who are struggling today – the lack of jobs? The President came to office promising that his massive, multi-trillion dollar spending programs would keep unemployment below 8%; but the lack of meaningful, pro-free market reforms in yesterday’s speech means his legacy will almost certainly be four years of above 8% unemployment, regardless of how much he increases federal spending (or perhaps I should say because of how much he’s increased it).

Perhaps the most nonsensical bit of double-speak we heard last night was when the President said that hitting job-creators with a tax increase isn’t “punishing their success. It’s about promoting America’s success.” But government taking more money from the small business entrepreneurs who create up to 70% of all jobs in this country is not “promoting America’s success.” It’s a disincentive that will result in less job creation. It is, in fact, punishing the success of the very people who created the innovation that the President has supposedly been praising.

Many economists generally agree that those "multi-trillion dollar spending programs" staved off a depression, an again, Palin claims small businesses are facing a tax increase, but as I pointed out above, the president signed several tax cuts for small businesses into law in the last couple years while the Republicans proposed to cut government programs that promote business interests.  It would appear as if the president is the one who is actually doing something for American businesses - not Republicans, who seem to write laws for big businesses, not small ones they like to talk about in their political speeches.  Maybe if small businesses could get into those closed door sessions with Republican lawmakers...

Despite the flowery rhetoric, the President doesn’t seem to understand that individuals make America great, not the federal government. American greatness lies in the courage and hard work of individual innovators and entrepreneurs. America is an exceptional nation in part because we have historically been a country that rewards and affirms individual initiative and offers people the freedom to invest and create as they see fit – not as a government bureaucrat does. Yes, government can play an appropriate role in our free market by ensuring a level playing field to encourage honest competition without picking winners and losers. But by and large, government should get out of the way. Unfortunately, under President Obama’s leadership, government growth is in our way, and his “big government greatness” will not help matters.

This paragraph is extremely contradictory - she attacks federal interventions in the free market but then claims the government can play an important role in "ensuring a level playing field to encourage honest competition."  

This is interesting considering Republicans are the ones who apologized to British Petroleum because the foreign company skimped on maintenance, causing a record-breaking oil spill to occur in American waters.  

It was Republicans who tried blocking the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.  

It was Republicans who watered down Wall Street reform, which sought to increase transparency and protect consumers (level the playing field).  If you ask me, "leveling the playing field" sounds a bit like the right-wing definition of "communism" to me...  

Consider what his “big government greatness” really amounts to. It’s basically a corporatist agenda – it’s the collaboration between big government and the big businesses that have powerful friends in D.C. and can afford to hire big lobbyists. This collaboration works in a manner that distorts and corrupts true free market capitalism. This isn’t just old-fashioned big government liberalism; this is crony capitalism on steroids. In the interests of big business, we’re “investing” in technologies and industries that venture capitalists tell us are non-starters, but which will provide lucrative returns for some corporate interests who have major investments in these areas. In the interests of big government, we’re not reducing the size of our bloated government or cutting spending, we’re told the President will freeze it – at unsustainable, historic levels! In practice, this means that public sector employees (big government’s staunchest defenders) may not lose jobs, but millions of Americans in the private sector face lay offs because the ever-expanding government has squeezed out and crippled our economy under the weight of unsustainable debt.

Seriously?  Palin is calling Obama a "corporatist?"  Did she even read her Facebook note where she claimed he was taxing business, stymying economic growth, and enacting anti-capitalistic policies?  

Palin only sees the costs associated with investing in future technologies and assumes the unwillingness of private enterprise to invest in such technologies is because it is a government boondoggle, when in actuality, it requires a large investment - one that only the richest corporations and governments - in order to drive costs down.  

Does Palin even understand the hypocrisy of her Facebook note when taking into consideration the number of subsidies oil companies benefit from?  Does Palin even consider how this effects the overall price of energy produced from oil and how other subsidies compare?  

Of course not.

Ronald Reagan said, “You can’t be for big government, big taxes, and big bureaucracy and still be for the little guy.” President Obama’s proposals last night stick the little guy with the bill, while big government and its big corporate partners prosper. The plain truth is our country simply cannot afford Barack Obama’s dream of an “exceptionally big government” that may help the big guys, but sticks it to the rest of us.

It wouldn't be a Sarah Palin Facebook note without a Ronald Reagan quote.

Cass Sunstein Grilled By Congressional Republicans In McCarthy-esque Hearings

With Republican gains from last years elections, it was only a matter of time before they started calling in their political targets for scheduled hearings, and what better target then Cass Sunstein -the head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), more affectionatly known by the right as the "regulatory czar."

An article by David Weigel for Slate illustrates just why the GOP hearings are nothing but a witch hunt - Sunstein's responses were logical and the questioners had no clue as to what they were asking Sunstein.
"When the Department of Interior came out with the moratorium on drilling," asked Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., "did you review that?"

"No," said Sunstein. "That wasn't a regulatory action within the meaning of Order 12866," the executive order that allows Sunstein's office to review draft regulations.

Scalise tried again. "At least it wasn't your feeling that it wasn't?"

"No," said Sunstein. "It doesn't fit within the definition of a significant regulatory action."
This is interesting when considering Scalise's response to the presidents State of the Union address:
If the President is really serious, he’ll join with Republicans and support our plans to create jobs and cut reckless Washington spending, and he can start by issuing permits so people can get back to work drilling safely in the Gulf for domestic energy.
Wouldn't you be the slightest concerned with the fact that Scalise is questioning the wrong person about some government regulation?  That would make me question Scalise's comprehension of the regulation itself.  Scalise is only making an issue out of this so it looks like he is tough on "anti-oil" regulation.

Scalise wasn't the only one to get their facts wrong - Texas' Joe Barton also couldn't stump Sunstein:
"There has been an explosion of regulation and regulations issued in the first years of the Obama administration," said Rep. Joe Barton, R-Tex. "Quite frankly, I didn't see that your organization has done anything to slow this down. I don't see that you've done anything to do what the new executive order says."

"If I may discuss the idea of explosion," said Sunstein. "The number of regulations issued in the last two years is approximately the same as the number issued in the last two years of the Bush administration."

This was a bit much for Barton. "Just the regulations issued under the new health care law are in the thousands!" he said.

"The number that have been issued in the last months are not in the thousands," said Sunstein. "In terms of finalized economically significant rules, I don't think the data supports the claim—"

"Well, what's the answer to the question?" snapped Barton. "Is this new executive order going to require a determination by your group, your agency, of the net job gain or loss of past, current, and new regulations?"

"We will be focusing very much on job loss as a result of regulation."

"So the answer is yes?"

"Well, there are some technical reasons. It's complicated."

"So the answer is no?"

"Well, I'm afraid that the answer to this one, uniquely thus far, is neither yes nor no."

"Well," said an exasperated Barton, who had warned the room that he was late for a radio interview, "that's a very evasive answer. The president is going to give you an A-plus for evading a straight yes-or-no question."
Sunstein was not being evasive, as Barton insisted - Barton did not aska  simple "yes-or-no question" and was unhappy when Sunstein did not fall into his trap.  Barton was probably more concerned with getting a juicy answer so he can gossip about it with whoever he was interviewing that day.
On talk radio, it's assumed that Sunstein's writings on free speech and conspiracy theories have revealed his plans to silence critics. But no one successfully needled Sunstein over the claims and arguments he'd made in his academic work. "My academic writing isn't relevant to my job," he said, after Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., attempted to nail him down on whether he'd regulate the Internet—a major cause of talk radio and Glenn Beckian panic. "I'm on the record opposing the fairness doctrine."

Freshman Rep. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., tried to broaden the inquiry. "What am I supposed to tell my constituents," he asked, "when they come to me and say 'These regulations are costing me jobs?'"

"There are two sets of concerns," said Sunstein. "One is about fear of what's coming. One is trouble caused by what's there."

"So they're just fearful?"

"No, that's not all," said Sunstein. "I'm just using your words. There is a legitimate fear that regulation can be harmful."

Gardner prodded Sunstein to commit, "in this time of economic crisis," not to defend any regulation that cost any job. He demanded a yes-or-no answer.

"A yes answer would be preposterous," said Sunstein. "If there's a regulation that's saving 10,000 lives and costing one job, it's worth it."
This last excerpt makes me think - just why exactly are Gardner's constituents fearful of regulation?  Who is putting that idea out there?

It is funny that these legislators issue these yes-or-no demands for questions with complex answers.  Sunstein's responses were excellent, and so the right will most likely move onto their next target to find some sort of damning response.

Republicans Vote To End Public Financing For Presidential Elections

With Republicans continually pushing off much-needed job-creating legislation, House Republicans passed a bill today eliminating public financing for the presidential election.

David Espo wrote the following for The Huffington Post:
Eager to cut spending, the Republican-controlled House voted to end multimillion-dollar federal subsidies for presidential candidates and national political conventions on Wednesday, the first of what party leaders promised will be weekly, bite-sized bills to attack record deficits.

The 239-160 vote sent the measure – and the fate of the familiar $3 check-off box on income tax returns – to the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats.

"Eliminating this program would save taxpayers $617 million over ten years, and would require candidates and political parties to rely on private contributions rather than tax dollars," said Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., "In times when government has no choice but to do more with less, voting to end the Presidential Election Campaign Fund should be a no brainer."

Democratic critics said it was anything but that, arguing the vote represented a step away from sweeping reforms enacted in response to the Watergate scandals of a generation ago.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., said that in combination with a year-old Supreme Court ruling that loosened restrictions on donations by corporations and others, the legislation would result in "less transparency and less information for the voters" at a time when the public is seeking "clean, transparent and competitive elections and campaigns."
I once supported the idea of abolishing public financing of elections, my attitude towards the practice changes with the Citizens United ruling, which allowed more money to flow from private sources during election cycles.  I agree with Van Hollen's assessment of the situation and am upset with the Republican bill. 

Just consider last years mid-term elections and the amount of private money used to influence election results - look at the campaign of Florida Governor Rick Scott, who set up a shell 527 to funnel his private fortune into to prevent his oponents from qualifying for matching public funds, and then use that corporation to make unrestricted use of that corporation.  Did I fail to mention that Rick Scott was a crook who bilked the government out of millions by scamming Medicair and Medicaid through his hospitals billing?

Basically, Republicans want to pass this legislation - claiming it is a deficit reducer despite the cost being a fraction of a percent of the annual deficit - because they want to influence elections with no restrictions and no opposition.  They want to write the rules in their favor.  Sure, they point to Obama refusing public financing during his run for the presidency in 2008, but Obama also had to comply with pre-Citizens United campaign finance laws - Democrats were also quick to point out how Ronald Reagan benefited from public financing, and if you talk to any modern Republican, they claim Reagan to be the spiritual head of the party, and without Reagan, there would be no GOP.

I am glad that this legislation will have to try and make it through the Senate, where bills go and die...

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Rep. David Dreier Lies About Education, Child Nutrition Cuts In Regards To Symbolic GOP Bill

Even though Republicans promised to focus on jobs as soon as they arrived in Washington, all they could do so far is gleefully propose symbolic legislation to make their base feel better about themselves.  First, it was a "repeal" of "Obamacare," which will of course die in the Democratic-controlled senate, but now Republicans in the House passed a vague resolution that promises to reduce "non-security" spending to 2008 levels.  This legislation was submitted by Republican Rep. David Dreier of California.

Elise Foley wrote the following for The Huffington Post:
Democrats blasted the effort as a meaningless political stunt, noting that Republicans chose to move forward before the Congressional Budget Office releases estimates on exactly what funding would need to be cut. "If this was a serious effort, there would be numbers," said Rep. James McGovern (D-Mass.). "This is about issuing a press release after the State of the Union."

Still, House Republicans passed their third piece of statement legislation by moving ahead with the resolution. Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), who introduced the resolution, said the cuts wouldn't mean the end of cancer research or other "important programs," but failed to get into specifics. "There is no one in this body who wants to gut funding for important programs for our veterans or education, child nutrition," Dreier said. "This is merely the first step in an ongoing effort to bring our budget back into the black."

McGovern requested an exemption from the cuts for the FBI's counterterrorism spending, while Rep. Robert Andrews (D-N.J.) questioned what the bill would mean for funding for cancer research under the National Institute of Health. "No one knows exactly what's going to be cut," Andrews said. "We get verbiage, but no answer."
I had thought Dreir's comments were interesting because as Scott Keyes of Think Progress noted before elections last year that there were 111incumbents and candidates, who through their voting record and statements, support shutting down the Department of Education, with Dreier being one of them.

Also, Dreier stated "no one" wanted to cut education, yet as Think Progress noted, Dreier is not alone.  

Dreier scored a 20% with the National Education Association, indicating an anti-public education agenda, and his voting record on education seems to revolve around allowing prayer in school or giving federal money to schools that allow prayer, and reducing funds for everyone else.  Interestingly enough, he has links on his website for the Department of Education, as well as other sites offering financial aid help despite the fact he had voted against grants and funding for colleges in the past.

Dreier's above comments are also interesting because he specifically mentioned "child nutrition."  The GOP attempted to block child nutrition legislation late last year, with Dreier voting "aye" on a procedural vote designed to stop the bill from becoming law - he was joined by 169 other Republicans in the House.

Dreier's hypocrisy doesn't stop with education and child nutrition.  In the past, he promoted the importance of "infrastructure and innovation" yet voted against the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act which would have provided $13 billion in tax cuts, nearly $4.5 billion in infrastructure investments, and billions more for job training and education programs in California, and he has voted on numerous free trade issues, yet just recently, Republicans proposed cuts to government programs designed to promote American business interests abroad.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Glenn Beck Chimes In On Keith Olbermann Departure

Conservative media has been pretty hush regarding the abrupt exit of MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, but Fox News propagandist Glenn Beck was quick to make a comment, speculating as to why the rival pundit left his job.
Conservative pundit Glenn Beck said Monday that Keith Olbermann's departure from MSNBC was due to the fact that the Countdown host was difficult to work with.

This ultimately finished off Olbermann’s stint in Beck's view.

"You can handle mediocre ratings if the guys is not a total pain in the ass," Beck said. "But from every indication Keith Olbermann is the biggest pain in the ass in the world."

"He was impossible to work with," Beck added.

Conservatives originally reacted quietly to Olbermann's surprise departure on Friday. But the noise is starting to pick up.

Beck said he personally enjoyed Olbermann's show. "I kind of like the easy competition," he said.
I thought Beck's comments were very interesting because he insists that Olbermann's ratings were "mediocre" and because he was a "pain in the ass," he was let go, but I don't think that was the case considering Olbermann's ratings were the highest for the cable channel.

Beck also insists that Olbermann was "easy competition," but when you compare ratings of the two stars from late last year, Olbermann's performance was not to shabby - close to 1.1 million to Beck's 1.7 million.

While Olbermann may or may not have been difficult to work with, Beck just uses this latest event to make an easy jab at his competition and to draw attention away from his sagging ratings - Beck's show has been bleeding viewers for over a year.
Fox News’ 5pm Glenn Beck ratings took a tumble vs. last October.

Glenn Beck ratings in October, 2010 were down 28% in the cable news target adults 25-54 demo, and down 24% in average viewership vs. October, 2009.

The 5pm hour of CNN’s Situation Room also fell, but not as much as Glenn Beck. The 5pm hour of Hardball w/ Chris Matthews was up vs. last October, rising 8% in adults 25-54, and 6% in average viewership.
His numbers continued to drop - he had over 2 million nightly viewers late last year, but as we see above, that number dwindled to 1.7 million.  Its easy for Beck to call out Olbermann's lower ratings but considering the fact that while Olbermann may have had less viewers, he retained viewers, and that Beck has continually lost viewers in key demographics, it is safe to say that Olbermann was the better bet.

If Glenn Beck thinks he can steal some of Olbermann's viewers, I think he will be in for a rude awakening and should watch out for the rise of Rachel Maddow and Lawrence O'Donnell.

Also, with Olbermann's departure keeping him off the airwaves for several months, Beck may see new competition for his mediocre Huffington Post-wannabe website, The Blaze, should Olbermann decide to hit the internet with his own brand.

Rick Perry Uses Federal Money To Save State From Ruin While Criticizing Bailouts

William Alden wrote the following for The Huffington Post:
The nation's states face budget strains -- even one that says it doesn't.

Texas filled nearly 97 percent of its shortfall last year with Federal stimulus dollars, even as its governor has been sharply critical of "bailout" policies, CNN Money reports, citing the National Conference of State Legislatures. In the wake of the recession, Texas is one of many states that, contending with diminished revenue, have benefited from Federal support.

After facing a $6.6 billion budget hole, Texas used $6.4 billion of Federal money to help patch it, allowing the state to keep its $9.1 billion emergency fund intact, CNN reports.

But on the same day he asked for the bailout money, governor Rick Perry started a petition called "No Government Bailouts." Indeed, Perry is a consistent critic of government spending, frequently pointing to his own state as proof that budget austerity -- spending cuts coupled with low taxes -- works.

But now, with the stimulus money running out, and with the economy still sluggish, Texas is projected to run a nearly $27 billion deficit over the next two years, according to the state's own estimate.

To stave off that shortfall, lawmakers are planning cuts that include funds for Medicaid, education and child care, CNN reports.
Sadly, the people Perry tells his anti-bailout stories to will never know of the hypocrisy - or never believe it - because their sources for "news," like Fox News or Andrew Breitbart's various propaganda sites won't report on their own hypocrisies.  We saw the same thing happen with Bobby Jindal complain about lack of federal help during a natural disaster when he sat on thousands of national guard soldiers and the numerous legislators who campaigned against the stimulus attend various ribbon-cutting events funded by the stimulus.

I think Perry will continue to claim his state is riding high and when the federal money disappears, he is going to claim he is a good little conservative by cutting government programs to fill the budget gaps.  Most likely, the conservative voters will eat it up and Perry will try to ride their approval into a higher post, like senator or president.

Friday, January 21, 2011

A Brief Moderate Review Of Conservative Budget Cut Proposals

Now that Republicans are in control of the House of Representatives, they are trying to exercise some muscle, first by "repealing" health care reform, and secondly b trying to reduce the size of government.

Here is a list of programs they wish to cut - I have highlighted the cuts to indicate which ones I believe should stay (green), go (red), or be raised/reduced (blue), followed by an explanation:

➢ Corporation for Public Broadcasting Subsidy. $445 million annual savings. ➢ Save America's Treasures Program. $25 million annual savings. 

It is obvious why the Public Broadcasting Subsidy is on the chopping block - Republicans desire a monopoly on the media an d desire to control the narrative through their conservative media allies, like Fox News.  Conservatives view public broadcasting to be liberally biased, and must therefor be eliminated.  I believe PBS to be generally moderate, offering very little of one may call "radical" ideology and is needed in today's society, especially with the divisive nature of partisan corporations engaging in media manipulation.  Also take into consideration that the majority of media is controlled by only a handful of corporations.

➢ International Fund for Ireland. $17 million annual savings. 

I think many of our overseas aid projects should be reconsidered, but I find the Republican's choice of Ireland to be interesting - while this list includes Ireland and Egypt, they fail to look at America's other financial relationships, like with oil-rich Saudi Arabia or Israel. 

As noted on another site, one-third of all U.S. foreign aid goes to Israel or Egypt, and neither is a "developing" country.  The selection of Ireland leads me to believe its selection was because of its recent public economic woes and the attention conservatives have given it to push their domestic agenda.

➢ Legal Services Corporation. $420 million annual savings.

This service is necessary, for eliminating legal aid to the underprivileged would only further exacerbate the exploitation of those people by those with the means to navigate the legal system.  I am reminded of Florida homeowners association legal battles - homeowners associations experience an unfair advantage in the legal system because they can draw cash from their membership while an individual homeowner may have to rely on charitable legal aid or their own savings, and in many instances, the HOA fights to have the homeowner pay their costs for arbitration or litigation.

➢ National Endowment for the Arts. $167.5 million annual savings. 

Republicans have it in for culture, unless it is Christian - just look at recent headlines where conservatives were upset about an art exhibit featuring a video of a crucifix being swarmed by ants.  I think that in a time of economic uncertainty, the budget for the NEA should be reduced but not totally eliminated.

➢ National Endowment for the Humanities. $167.5 million annual savings. 

Same as above.

➢ Hope VI Program. $250 million annual savings. 

I think this program is essential for urban revitalization, and I agree with some criticisms of the program, but I disagree with it being cut completely.

➢ Amtrak Subsidies. $1.565 billion annual savings. 

I believe America's mass transit system is in desperate need of some tender love and care, but I believe the Amtrak subsidies are necessary in maintaining transportation for now - I think Amtrak needs to be completely reworked to become more modern and more competitive, which is why I would support a reduction in expenditures.

➢ Eliminate duplicative education programs. H.R. 2274 (in last Congress), authored by Rep. McKeon, eliminates 68 at a savings of $1.3 billion annually. 

While I suppose the Republicans slipped this cut in the proposals as a way to weaken the Department of Education, I think this is wise, and duplicative programs should be eliminated across the entire federal government.

➢ U.S. Trade Development Agency. $55 million annual savings. 

The GOP wants to cut a program designed to develop American business interests?  Weren't the GOP pro-business last election?

➢ Woodrow Wilson Center Subsidy. $20 million annual savings. 

It is no secret conservatives have a new-found hatred for the early-20th century president (thanks to people like Glenn Beck).  Couple that hatred with their disinterest with education and you have this particular cut.

➢ Cut in half funding for congressional printing and binding. $47 million annual savings.

I agree, but I assume they came up with this after looking at congressional bills for printing and binding for last year, especially considering every Republican thought it was necessary to print out the health care reform bill in the most wasteful way possible.  
➢ John C. Stennis Center Subsidy. $430,000 annual savings. 

While I think the goals behind the center are admirable, I find it unnecessary.

➢ Community Development Fund. $4.5 billion annual savings.

In a time of economic turmoil, I think it is unwise to not maintain America's communities.  It is like not changing the oil in your car on the way to work because you would rather buy a CD to listen to on the way to work.

➢ Heritage Area Grants and Statutory Aid. $24 million annual savings. 

Couldn't really find much information on this particular item but considering the relatively low price tag I figured why not.

➢ Cut Federal Travel Budget in Half. $7.5 billion annual savings. 

I think this is a good idea but I think it is born from that stupid right-wing story about the administration spending over $200 million per day to send the president and his entourage to India.

➢ Trim Federal Vehicle Budget by 20%. $600 million annual savings. 

I think this would also be a very good idea and think it would force the federal government to make wiser vehicle purchases.

➢ Essential Air Service. $150 million annual savings. 

I think this service is important in maintaining rural communities, but considering the economic crunch, it should be reexamined.

➢ Technology Innovation Program. $70 million annual savings. 

And Republicans wonder why we lose jobs - especially information technology jobs - overseas. 

➢ Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) Program. $125 million annual savings. 

Again, the GOP wants to elliminate funding for programs that are designed to help businesses?
➢ Department of Energy Grants to States for Weatherization. $530 million annual savings. 

A very good idea but could possibly be scaled down for now.

➢ Beach Replenishment. $95 million annual savings.

I recall an article - I think on one of Andrew Breitbart's propaganda sites - that complained regulation was hurting America's beach economies.  You know what hurts beach economies the most?  Not having a beach!

➢ New Starts Transit. $2 billion annual savings.

As stated above about America's infrastructure, I do not think now is the time to eliminate mass transit investments.  

➢ Exchange Programs for Alaska, Natives Native Hawaiians, and Their Historical Trading Partners in Massachusetts. $9 million annual savings

Couldn't really find much on these programs but considering the relatively small price tag and the numerous treaties we broke, I think it is a small price to pay.  I also think this program was chosen because it fits into the anti-welfare rhetoric the right is so fond of using.

➢ Intercity and High Speed Rail Grants. $2.5 billion annual savings.

Again - mass transit.
➢ Title X Family Planning. $318 million annual savings. 

This is just the right-wing religious base upset with the idea of "family planning," which if you couldn't tell from the health care debate, revolves around the belief that the government wants to kill your unborn babies.  With that being said, I think it would be okay to decrease expenditures temporarily.
➢ Appalachian Regional Commission. $76 million annual savings. 

Pro-business GOP want to cut programs designed to encourage economic growth?
➢ Economic Development Administration. $293 million annual savings.

See above.

➢ Programs under the National and Community Services Act. $1.15 billion annual savings. 

I think it is important to invest in our communities but I think this item can be reduced for now.

➢ Applied Research at Department of Energy. $1.27 billion annual savings. 

This is part of the GOP assault on science and is probably related to their numerous economic ties, like to multi-billion dollaroil companies.

➢ FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership. $200 million annual savings. 

The GOP don't believe in conservation or global warming, so why not kill a program designed to establish clean and sustainable transportation energy for the future, or do Republicans like complaining about the price of gas?

➢ Energy Star Program. $52 million annual savings. 

I think this program helps improve energy efficiency, which helps conserve resources, like oil.  Why would we want to do a thing like that?

➢ Economic Assistance to Egypt. $250 million annually. 

This I can see us cutting, but as stated way above, when will the GOP explore our nation's other relationships?

➢ U.S. Agency for International Development. $1.39 billion annual savings. 

I think this foreign aid program could see some reductions but not a complete elimination.

➢ General Assistance to District of Columbia. $210 million annual savings. 

I just don't think eliminating that much is a wise thing to do.

➢ Subsidy for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. $150 million annual savings.

Can you imagine what the right-wing media will say when a big rally takes place in the District of Columbia and the city grinds to a halt because they lack the funds to accomodate such crowds?  This is of course just one of many reasons as why this is a bad idea.

➢ Presidential Campaign Fund. $775 million savings over ten years. 

Because of the recent Citizens United case, I worry that eliminating this fund will help skew elections even further, with business interests winning in the end.

➢ No funding for federal office space acquisition. $864 million annual savings.

Republicans probably figured that if you do not allow funding for federal office space acquisition, the federal government cannot create new agencies, for there would be no place to put them.
➢ End prohibitions on competitive sourcing of government services.

I like the idea of competitive sourcing.

➢ Repeal the Davis-Bacon Act. More than $1 billion annually. 

I would think doing so would destabilize local job markets even further then they already are. 

➢ IRS Direct Deposit: Require the IRS to deposit fees for some services it offers (such as processing payment plans for taxpayers) to the Treasury, instead of allowing it to remain as part of its budget. $1.8 billion savings over ten years. 

If you don't allow deposit fees to remain as part of the IRS' budget, the IRS' budget would most likely increase, but then again, the Republicans don't want the IRS to have any more money because of the role they play in the implementation of the individual mandate for health care reform. 

➢ Require collection of unpaid taxes by federal employees. $1 billion total savings.

Great idea but I have the feeling this was motivated by news of some administration officials failing to pay taxes - an issue right-wing media love to obsess about.

➢ Prohibit taxpayer funded union activities by federal employees. $1.2 billion savings over ten years. 


➢ Sell excess federal properties the government does not make use of. $15 billion total savings. 

This is a great idea - not! 
Lets get rid off all property the government has and open it up for business development.  Does this mean federal parks, offices, historical landmarks?  Add this to the idea that the federal government should have no office space acquisition funding and you have a way to instantly shrink the size of government - literally.

➢ Eliminate death gratuity for Members of Congress. 


➢ Eliminate Mohair Subsidies. $1 million annual savings.

Out-dated legislation in need of elimination, although I do love me some mohair sweaters.

➢ Eliminate taxpayer subsidies to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. $12.5 million annual savings. 

Part of that conservative war on science, so this cut should be ignored.

➢ Eliminate Market Access Program. $200 million annual savings. 

Again, the GOP want to cut a program designed to aid businesses.  Go figure!

➢ USDA Sugar Program. $14 million annual savings.


➢ Subsidy to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). $93 million annual savings.

Pro-business platform rhetoric starting to sound like just political pillow talk.

➢ Eliminate the National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program. $56.2 million annual savings.

I may have once agreed to this, but I have changed my mind when considering the numerous product recalls over the last couple years.

➢ Eliminate fund for Obamacare administrative costs. $900 million savings. 

I forgot the Republicans want to try to reverse health care reform any which way they can.  Bad idea.

➢ Ready to Learn TV Program. $27 million savings. 

I think there are more effective methods to educate children and so I think this program should be cut.

Basically, I find most of these proposals to be highly-partisan attempts at chiseling away at the budget while ignoring the real culprits for our economic problems, like military spending and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.  While cutting funding for "Obamacare" may resonate well with the GOP base, it solves no problem and is a solution to nothing more then a campaign promise.

I think the Republicans need to make a second go and try to work with Democrats in cutting the budget, but I doubt they will do that...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Change Of HEART - The Three GOP Senators Who Co-Sponsored The 1993 Republican Health Care Bill, Which Mandated The Purchase Of Insurance, Who Are Still In Office

Now that Republicans are in charge of the House of Representatives, they plan on ignoring all the other pressing matters of America to try and repeal the health care reform legislation of last year. They started to do so but with the tragedy in Tuscon, House Republicans put their plans on hold, but a schedule released by

Michael O'Brien wrote the following for The Hill:
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) released his schedule for next week on Friday, which has the GOP-controlled House starting debate on its legislation on Tuesday before a Wednesday vote.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor indicates he will start debate on Tuesday.
On Thursday, the House will debate and vote on legislation to instruct committees to develop alternatives to replace the reform law.

The vote represents somewhat of a return to normalcy in the House after all substantive floor action was postponed in the past week, in the wake of the attack against Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.).

Republicans had faced some calls to change the name of their bill in the wake of the attack, but Cantor's schedule showed no indication of doing so, referring to H.R. 2 by its official name, "Repealing the Job-Killing Health Care Law Act."
While I think the GOP-led House will pass any anti-reform bill, I doubt the Democratic-controlled Senate would, but I thought it would be interesting to point out something very interesting about the Senate - in 1993, 21 Republicans and 2 Democrats (3 if you count Arlen Specter) co-sponsored a health care bill similar to the one last year.  The 1993 bill, the "Health Equity and Access Reform Today Act of 1993," or HEART Act, contained an individual mandate to purchase health care insurance much like the one Republicans vilified since the Democrats dropped the public option in favor of the mandate.

The HEART Act required "each citizen or lawful permanent resident to be covered under a qualified health plan or equivalent health care program."

In addition to a mandate, the GOP-sponsored bill contained some other similarities, such as using Internal Revenue Code to enforce certain aspects of the bill, like employer and insurer compliance, and if Sarah Palin was around back then, she would have surely claimed the GOP bill established "death panels" - the bill required a "Health Care Data Panel to develop regulations for the operation of an integrated electronic health care data interchange system," which would have surely been interpreted by the Alaskan Claptrap as the government using data to determine what procedures are medically necessary.

Now while conservatives may claim this bill was bipartisan because a couple Democrats signed on(and Arlen Specter), by using their own criticisms against the support of only a couple Republicans on recent legislation crafted by Democrats, I would have to say they would that the HEART Act was not a bipartisan creation, so why am I writing about this bill nearly 20 years after its creation?

There are three still-seated Republican senators who co-sponsored this legislation who now oppose last years health care reform, and one of the major aspects of the law they use to claim it kills jobs and is unconstitutional - the individual mandate - is something they co-sponsored 17 years ago.

Those 3 GOP co-sponsors of The HEART Act of 1993 are as follows - Chuck Grassley of Iowa; Orrin Hatch of Utah; and Richard Lugar of Indiana. 

Now lets take a look at these three hypocrites - originally I was writing about five hypocrites, but since two ended their terms in the Senate this year, that leaves only three, but the other two - Bob Bennett of Utah and Kit Bond of Missouri - are still hypocrites for opposing the individual mandate they once championed throughout the health care debate.

Think Progress' The Wonk Room detailed Chuck Grassley's change of heart pretty well:
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) — the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee — supported the individual mandate in 1993, when he, along with Sen. John Chafee (R-RI), proposed an alternative to President Bill Clinton’s health care initiative that required every American to purchase health insurance coverage. He supported the mandate when he co-sponsored the Wyden-Bennet health care plan in 2007. And he endorsed the policy again in June of 2009, when he told Fox News Sunday’s Chris Wallace that there was bipartisan agreement that individuals should take responsibility for their own health care costs. But as the Senate Finance Committee prepared to release its health care bill, Grassley started arguing that the mandate is an “unprecedented” intrusion into the rights of the individual. In September of 2009, Grassley said that he was “very reluctant to go along with an individual mandate” since it would impose “a federal penalty against people who don’t have health insurance.”
Grassley responded to allegations of flip-flopping that he only changed his position once he learned the law was unconstitutional, despite the fact that most constitutional scholars believe the mandate to be constitutional.

Last year, Orrin Hatch claimed the health care bill was a plan by the Democrats to destroy the two-party system and establish socialized medicine in this country.

Michael O'Brien wrote the following for The Hill:
Hatch asserted that the health bills, which he believes represent a "step-by-step approach to socialized medicine," will lead to Americans' dependence on Democrats for their health and other issues.

"And if they get there, of course, you're going to have a very rough time having a two-party system in this country, because almost everybody's going to say, 'All we ever were, all we ever are, all we ever hope to be depends on the Democratic Party,' " Hatch said during an interview with the conservative

"That's their goal," Hatch added. "That's what keeps Democrats in power."

That claim led Hatch to suggest that some Democrats are "diabolical" in their pursuit of health reform.

"Do I believe they're that diabolical? I don't believe most of them are, but I think some of them are," Hatch said. "Maybe diabolical's too harsh of a word, but the fact is, they really, really believe in socialized medicine."
Because Hatch believed health care reform, including the individual mandate, to be socialist and a plan to destroy the two-party system, did Hatch admit that he originally planned to destroy the two-party system and establish a one-party Republican state with his co-sponsoring of the similar 1993 legislation?  Is Hatch "diabolical," as defined by himself?

Hatch also commented on the constitutionality of the bill a couple months ago while appearing on Fox News.

"The individual mandate, in our eyes, is clearly unconstitutional," explained Hatch Fox's Greta Van Susteren. "If Congress can do that to us, then there's nothing that the government can't do to us."

Hatch, like Grassley, had a hard time explaining his shift in opinion, claiming he never knew he supported the mandate that appeared in the legislation he co-sponsored:

"In 1993, we were trying to kill HillaryCare and I didn't pay any attention to that because that was part of a bill that I just hadn't centered on," he said. "But, since then, of course, 17 years later, when it comes up and I know it's possible it's going to pass, then I looked at it and, constitutionally, I came to the conclusion this would be."

Looks like Hatch is taking the "Shaggy defense."

Hatch and Grassley also signed a brief with thirty other Republicans in support of a court case challenging health care reform.  The federal case based in Florida argued that the individual mandate Grassley and Hatch once supported was unconstitutional.

Last summer, Richard Lugar commented that he would vote for repeal of the new healthcare law, but for the most part Lugar has been quiet on the matter, declining to sign the amicus brief Grassley and Hatch did, presumably because Lugar faces reelection in 2012 and did not need to seek tea party support for the mid-term elections, and with repeal legislation kicking off the 112th Congress, Lugar has some time before voters forget and he can go back to courting moderates and independents without fear of tea party reprisal.

This is all interesting because not only did these senators change positions drastically over the years, but the fact that they have claimed Democrats have acted against the interests of America and that Americans support their repeal efforts despite recent polls showing only a quarter of the population support repeal.  While the amount of people opposed to the legislation remains high (41 percent opposed to 40 percent who support), the numbers have begun to normalize with the education and implementation of the positive aspects of the bill.

Instead of repealing the bill, Republicans need to focus on amending the bill, and not using the amendment process to cripple the bill.  Republicans must not allow their hatred of the bill to prevent them from accomplishing other important matters - they need to tackle everything all at once, but considering McCain's answers during the 2008 debates and how he would prioritize his presidency, I doubt Republicans will be able to multi-task and will focus on the unpopular repeal bill.

Who is cramming legislation down America's throat now?