Friday, July 29, 2011

OPINION: Nothing Doing, Also: A Bit of Good News

After a slowly growing build-up, and a long pause, it was a non-decisive day.  Another anti-climax.  Governing interruptus.  Decisions affecting all Americans -- and especially the elderly and disabled -- are put off until another day.  When will it end?

Again, the radical Conservatives -- particularly the freshmen who have no governing experience, and by the way apparently also don't care for civic responsibility -- are precluding progress, are destroying the government of the United States.  How can the people they are supposed to represent stomach this?  Who does this benefit?

Neither party alone can solve the debt problem. They need each other for a solution . . . if  both parties want a solution.  Now, it's obvious that the Conservatives do not want a solution.  They have made their point, which they wanted to do.  Now, they don't know what to do next.  How about move forward?

This is not patriotism.  This is not love of country.  This is, instead, complete vanity -- narcissism at its absolute worst -- self-absorption, conceit.  It's the equivalent of political gluttony and power exercised as a vice.  It's ideology before patriotism.  It's individual selfishness above the common good.

Rep. Boehner, cut them loose and work with any willing Democrats.  Good riddance!  You're better off without them . . . as are we.

In the meantime, we're on hold.  Cue the limp telephone music.

On a Happier Note

"Neither the Boehner nor the Reid plans include cuts to Medicare or Medicaid  KHN’s Mary Agnes Carey talks with Jackie Judd about why that happened and what could bring these entitlements back into the deficit-reduction conversation."  "The ongoing political drama over raising the debt ceiling and reducing spending goes on.  But the most recent proposals -- unlike earlier ones -- say nothing about immediately changing or modifying Medicare or Medicaid.  Why did those programs get taken off the table? "  Read the transcript and find out.

For Your Information


Thursday, July 28, 2011

EVERYTHING INTENSIFIES: Jesus Weighs In, Thrust and Parry, Much More

The countdown to the debt limit extension deadline has been ticking slowly up until now.  As the deadline gets much closer, the faster everyone will have to work if we are to avoid default.  And the pressure increases exponentially.  Tensions are building.  The stakes are high for the aged, the disabled, the poor, veterans, people on Social Security, and -- in fact -- everyone.  Lots to report, so let's get going.

Jesus, Debt, and Taxes

First and foremost, Christian leaders are urging President Obama to protect the poor in debt talks.  "An 'unprecedented' coalition of religious leaders are coming together to urge President Obama not to sacrifice the needs of the poor in negotiations to reduce the nation’s debt.  Leaders from the Episcopal Church, the Salvation Army, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the National Association of Evangelicals, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and the United Church of Christ all met with Obama last week to present their unified message."

It's rare that mainstream religious leaders get involved in politics.  This very clearly indicates the near-crisis situation for the aged, the disabled, and the poor.  Veterans benefits also are on the block.  So many people have given so much to America, and the Conservatives are trying to take away what people have paid for or even earned with their blood, sweat, and tears.  Simply morally wrong.

Republican Plan

Rep. Boehner’s debt plan was rewritten to increase "savings" and will be voted on today.  "House Republican leaders released a revised debt-reduction bill Wednesday evening after being forced to rewrite the bill so it complies with a promise from Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to produce more spending cuts than new borrowing authority.  The new Boehner bill will cut the deficit $917 billion over ten years and raises the debt limit $900 billion, a net cost savings of $17 billion, according to a Congressional Budget Office analysis.  In the next year along, fiscal year 2012, the bill would cut $22 billion in spending."

Democrat Response

Meanwhile, Democrats say the Boehner bill cannot pass in the Senate.  "The entire Senate Democratic caucus -- including independents Joe Lieberman (CT) and Bernie Sanders (VT) -- have a succinct message for House Speaker John Boehner: cram it!  In a Wednesday letter, the Democrats seek to prove what Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has been saying for days: nobody in his party will vote for Boehner's debt limit plan, and he should stop claiming it's a viable solution to the looming default crisis."

The article continues, "... a revised Congressional Budget Office analysis late today shows that the Reid and Boehner plans are actually growing more similar -- the only point of argument at this point is over how much to raise the debt limit.  Republicans accuse Democrats of wanting to extend it through 2012 only to protect President Obama during election season.  That's never been the entire truth -- the much bigger concern is that it'll be much harder for the parties to find common ground on another conditions-based debt limit increase in the middle of 2012."

Conservative Insanity

All along, the Republicans have had increasing difficulty with the Tea Partiers, who -- with a substantial minority, have essentially hijacked the entire Republican Party and the debt limit negotiations.  "House GOP leaders spent Wednesday afternoon trying to smooth over deep divisions in their party that erupted into public view after a heated conference meeting in which Republican Study Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (OH) was dressed down for an aide's attacks on Speaker John Boehner's (OH) debt-limit proposal.  During the morning meeting, Jordan professed not to know about his top staffer's e-mails to outside conservative groups complaining about Boehner's proposal and urging the groups to launch coordinated assaults on the plan and its lack of a balanced budget component."

Did I say "insanity?"  Just think of what they will do with all the other major problems America faces.  The debt might be our largest problem.  If so, how will they "govern" with all the other oh-so-minor problems?  This is politics before patriotism.

More Conservative Insanity

"House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said today that some members of his own caucus who are refusing to agree to a compromise debt ceiling deal are hoping to unleash 'chaos' and thus force the White House and Senate Democrats to make bigger concessions than they’re already offering.  As many as 40 House Republicans, especially Tea Party members and freshmen, have demanded nothing short of changing the Constitution to include a balanced budget amendment before they would vote to raise debt ceiling, even though that has zero chance before the U.S. faces potential default on Aug. 2."

But wait!  There's more!  Conservatives are telling the Republican leadership to "bring back Cut, Cap and Balance, a House-passed bill to raise the debt ceiling that failed in the Senate earlier this month."

Oh, this makes sense.  Bring it back so it can be voted down again.  Remember "A Few Good Men?"  "Oh, your Honor, you don't understand.  I strenuously object."

Democrats Respond to Efforts to Unleash Chaos

"Today, a group of House Democrats held a press conference where they advocated for a fail-safe measure to ensure that the debt ceiling is hiked.  These Democrats said that if all other measures fail, President Obama should simply issue an executive order invoking the 14th amendment to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling."

I have thought for a while that invoking the Fourteenth Amendment might be a reasonable and legal avenue to somehow avoid a default.  It would be very difficult -- once it's done -- to undo it later.  I think such a step would be a major blow to Conservatives.  Many Constitutional scholars believe such an action is perfectly legal -- that Congressional debt extensions have been largely unnecessary and purely political.  And many Democrats are urging the President to invoke the 14th Amendment.  To argue against it once it's done would be like advocating directly for a default on the good faith and credit of the United States, like advocating for a collapse of the economy, like advocating for increased interest rates for everyone.  Oh, wait.  That's pretty much the position of Conservatives right now.

For Your Information


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Balanced Debt, No Debt Progress, Empty Words from the Conservatives, Threat of the Tenthers

In yesterday morning's TMDR, I asked everyone to contact their Senators and Congressmen to tell them to stop the debt ceiling nonsense and protect Medicare and Social Security.  Later in the day, President Obama did the same.

I had trouble getting through yesterday morning, but I finally did, later in the evening.  I told my Senators (one Democrat and one Republican) and my Representative that, with my professional background of 30+ years in the field of aging, I know very well how important Social Security and Medicare are to the aged and disabled.  I also said, "I urge you to protect Social Security and Medicare, and I want you to insist that businesses and the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes.  I vote in every election."  You already may have emailed or written your Senators and Congressman.  If so, you've done the right thing.  Still, I'm asking you to do the right thing again; reach out, tell your members of Congress and tell your friends to stop the debt ceiling nonsense.  Thanks.

People Support Balance

"Most Americans would like to see a mix of spending cuts and tax increases be part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling, a new poll finds, aligning the majority with President Barack Obama’s position.  Of those surveyed for a Reuters/Ipsos poll released Tuesday, 56 percent said they want to see a mix of approaches used in an agreement to raise the debt ceiling.  The poll was conducted overnight Monday, as Obama and House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) voiced their views on the impasse in negotiations in back-to-back televised primetime speeches."  Make your voice heard.

Current Status: Nothing to Report

"High level discussions continue between Democrats and Republicans to make sure Congress raises the debt limit before the Treasury runs out of borrowing authority and has to slash public spending on a massive scale.  But for the moment, we're in a period of repose.  In public, few are willing to budge too far off their own party's plan to raise the debt limit.  And members and aides are now believe that a viable solution won't emerge until one of the existing, partisan plans fails publicly."  Make your voice heard.

Empty GOP Talking Points

"GOP leaders stuck to their talking points last night in responding to President Obama’s speech on the debt ceiling, accusing him of the 'largest spending binge in American history,' as Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said in remarks following the president’s."  "But Boehner and Cantor, along with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) have all voted for some of the biggest contributors to the debt -- the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Bush tax cuts, and President Bush’s Medicare prescription drug plan -- which helped to double the debt over the past decade."

It's only "politics" -- as usual.  Simply, the convenience of the moment to try to make or maintain points.  Conservative politicians -- and too many conservative-leaning citizens -- have their minds made up with little continuing thought -- no ongoing reality checking.  It doesn't matter if what's said is neither rational nor logical, as long as something is mouthed -- something to repeat to others.  "Well, you know, blah, blah, blah."  It's become  completely mindless as the Conservatives have completely usurped the former Grand Old Party.  Make your voice heard.

In the Name of State's Rights, Gut Social Programs

But it gets worse.  "In an interview on MSNBC’s Hardball Monday evening, tenther Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) admitted that he is using the threat of a catastrophic default to extort the nation into rewriting the Constitution to force a permanent era of conservative governance."  "If Lee’s proposed cuts were imposed across the federal budget, every single senior would lose one quarter of their Social Security and Medicare benefits, and that’s just the beginning.  Because Lee wants to write these draconian cuts into the Constitution, We the People will lose our power to overrule these cuts by electing different leaders."  Don't take it personally if you lose the benefits you've paid for and earned.  Make your voice heard.

For Your Information


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

And the Beat Goes On, The Alternate Universe of the GOP

Yesterday was a busy and troubling day -- almost impossible to keep up with or make sense of.  Here's the latest:

"President Obama used the power of his bully pulpit to try force House Republicans to forge a deficit-reduction deal with Democrats that would raise the debt ceiling but would not force massive cuts to entitlement programs while sparing the wealthiest Americans from higher taxes and 'shared sacrifice.'"

The President said, "They're fed up with a town where compromise has become a dirty word.  They work all day long, many of them scraping by, just to put food on the table.  And when these Americans come home at night, bone-tired, and turn on the news, all they see is the same partisan three-ring circus here in Washington.  They see leaders who can't seem to come together and do what it takes to make life just a little bit better for ordinary Americans.  They are offended by that.  And they should be."

Readers of TMDR know full well that we are offended by this.  I have written my Congressman and Senators, and I hope you do, too.  Tell them loud and clear that, not only are you sick of this level of intransigent politics, you also want to keep Medicare and Social Security safe for generations to come.  Do it now; please, do not hesitate.  If you already have written, then write again.

"Just moments after President Obama said in a televised address that Americans are 'fed up with a town where compromise is a dirty word,' House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) flung that message back in his face.  Drawing attention to the controversial and stringent 'Cut, Cap and Balance' Bill that passed the House of Representatives last week, Boehner claimed 'there is no stalemate in Congress.'"  "Scorning the alternative bill that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has introduced to the Senate, Boehner said the House would this week consider another alternative approach."

From my perspective, it looks like, once again, Rep. Boehner is putting forth just another fake approach -- certainly not a compromise -- simply for the sake of stalling.  It's not even enough to be able to claim  honestly that he's making an attempt at some kind of compromise.  It's fraud on the American people; the kind of fraud we are all too accustomed to seeing from today's Conservatives.  They have disgraced themselves of any meaningful Conservative values at all.

"In the debate over the debt ceiling, Republicans have sought to portray themselves as having two bottom lines.  One is that any increase in the debt ceiling must be met dollar-for-dollar with spending cuts.  The other is that no revenue increases can be part of the deal.  What Harry Reid did yesterday was essentially call the GOP’s bluff by outlining a plan that raises the debt ceiling by $2.7 trillion and includes $2.7 trillion in spending cuts....  Republicans are rejecting this even though it nominally meets their demands.  Why?  Because it doesn’t achieve either of their two real objectives.  In particular, the plan doesn’t cut Medicare, which means that Democratic party candidates for office in November 2012 and 2014 can accurately remind voters of the content of the Republican budget plan."

The Republican Version of Reality

"But while this denial of reality might be shocking to some people who only recently started paying attention to Republican politics, it’s not, in fact, a new phenomenon.  And it’s taking place wherever Republicans are asserting power."  "For example, if you just listened to conservatives, you would think that Wall Street and the reckless actions of big banks had nothing to do with the financial crisis."  "You would also have no idea that the bailouts started under President George W. Bush and were supported by many Republicans in Congress -- not to mention Sarah Palin."

Of course there are more examples.  This perspective goes beyond spin.  But is it simply delusional or is it purposeful lying?  So much for values and principles.

For Your Information