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November 20, 2009

We need not cower

A man proud of and confident in America.  Not one letting the terrorists terrorize us into doubting the strength of our convictions and system.  An imperfect system, but a great one.

Obama and Holder defend plans to try Sept. 11 suspects -- latimes.com.

"We need not cower in the face of this enemy. Our institutions are strong, our infrastructure is sturdy, our resolve is firm, and our people are ready," Holder said.

Holder also said he was not worried about whether Mohammed, Al Qaeda's chief of operations before the attacks, makes public statements similar to those he made at preliminary hearings at Guantanamo.

If he does, Holder said, "I have every confidence that the nation and the world will see him for the coward that he is. I'm not scared of what Khalid Shaikh Mohammed has to say at trial, and no one else needs to be afraid either."

GOP Wants Six Weeks To Debate Health Care Bill That They Will Oppose No Matter What

Sometimes you wonder, "how stupid do you think we are?", but in this case I think it more a case of us asking them "just how stupid are you?"


GOP Needs Six Weeks To Debate Health Care Bill That All Republicans Will Oppose.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) argued last Sunday that Republicans deserve at least six additional weeks to consider health care reform before letting the bill come to a vote. But on Friday, his top lieutenant said the entire GOP has already made up its mind on the legislation.

Appearing on Fox News Friday morning, Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) insisted that "every single Republican will oppose" even debating health care reform because "they know it will only get worse."

The Wrong Side of History ... again

There is a dangerous meme that says something to the effect that conservatives today need to reform to their basic principles like the good old days. That somehow they've gotten off track and need to return to their roots from some golden age of conservatism.

Let's be clear. It is the same as it ever was. Fear-based paranoia of loss of a mythologized America and one that, then as now, is based not on how things work in the real world but on ideology.

Op-Ed Columnist - The Wrong Side of History - NYTimes.com:
Indeed, these same arguments we hear today against health reform were used even earlier, to attack President Franklin Roosevelt’s call for Social Security. It was denounced as a socialist program that would compete with private insurers and add to Americans’ tax burden so as to kill jobs.

In hindsight, it seems a bit ridiculous, doesn’t it?  Social Security passed, and the republic survived.

Similar, ferocious hyperbole was unleashed on the proposal for Medicare.  President John Kennedy and later President Lyndon Johnson pushed for a government health program for the elderly, but conservatives bitterly denounced the proposal as socialism, as a plan for bureaucrats to make medical decisions, as a means to ration health care.

November 12, 2009

Glory, Ctd

Abraham Lincoln emancipated blacks in the military in the 1860s.  Obama can do the same for gays in the 2010s -- over 150 years later.

Glory, Ctd - The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan .
President Obama, your time for the same act of courage is now. History will long remember it.

Oregon one of 10 states in 'greatest fiscal peril' | Politics & Elections

Tax reform -- broaden the base, save the "kicker" in a reserve fund.  Broaden the economy.

Oregon one of 10 states in 'greatest fiscal peril' | Politics & Elections - - Oregonlive.com.

Even though the national economy has begun to rebound, Oregon is likely to have a harder time coming up with enough money to pay for schools and other public services -- or finding enough places it can cut back its spending -- than it did when patching together a balanced budget for 2009-10, said Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew center.

Her reasoning: Oregon's unemployment will remain high, causing tax revenues to stay low; federal stimulus money to bail out state budgets has largely run out; and voter mandates including long sentences for repeat criminal offenders mean some budget cuts are off limits.

In the long term, states like Oregon would benefit if they diversify their economy, give lawmakers more latitude to make tax and spending changes and reverse voter mandates such as Oregon's unique kicker rebate that prevents the state from building reserves when times are good, Urahn said.

But lawmakers don't have time for a long-term fix when they must balance budgets for 2010-11 and 2011-12 and it's unclear how states including Oregon will keep from going over the cliff, she said. The January vote on whether to keep or reverse $735 million in higher taxes on corporations and high-income individuals will be one key decision point, she said

The nonpartisan Pew Center on the States is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and aims to conduct rigorous research on state policies to determine what works and what does not.

November 11, 2009

Beyond California: States to Watch (Oregon)

Beyond California: States to Watch.
Oregon: The downturn has severely affected some of Oregon’s leading industries, such as timber and computer-chip manufacturing, and exposed the state’s reliance on volatile corporate and personal income taxes—the result of voters rejecting a statewide sales tax nine times. State revenues plummeted 19 percent between the first quarter of 2008 and the first quarter of 2009, a reflection of Oregon’s heavy reliance on income taxes. Lawmakers this year approved more than $1 billion in new taxes to make sure the state can pay its bills. But voters in January 2010 will have the final say on $733 million in new income taxes that are part of that package, and the electorate historically rejects tax hikes at the polls. Download the report on Oregon.

Want real reform? Let's start with Congress.

The US Senate filibuster and personal hold have turned the intent of the American constitution on its head: instead of majority rule with respect for the minority, it has become ultraminority blockage preventing any rule.  The majority has to bend over so far backward for the minority that the minority dictates what can come up.

Steven Pearlstein - Want real reform? Let's start with Congress:

Because of the quaint traditions of the [US Senate], there are today scores of top positions in government that routinely remain unfilled for months because one senator or another has decided to put a "hold" on a nomination. And on any controversial issue, and even some that are not, 60 votes are now required to overcome the threat of endless "debate" and actually pass a piece of legislation, along with 60 votes on as many amendments as senators can dream up.

It's gotten to the point now where all it takes to kill something in the Senate is the mere threat of a filibuster, without anyone actually having to mount one. And if you somehow managed to get, say, health reform legislation to the floor, it would take 60 votes to pass a bill that included the public option and 60 votes to pass one without it.

Catch-22!

Despite what you hear from legislative leaders, there is nothing preordained about this wholesale disregard for majority rule. In fact, it violates the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution, which expressly delineates a limited number of instances in which anything other than a majority vote is required. And it makes a mockery of Senate rules and precedent, which for nearly two centuries were grounded in a tradition of comity and mutual respect between majority and minority.

Leadership and politics

A Word On Behalf Of The ‘Executive Board Of The Brookings Institution’ | The New Republic.
Yes, politics is the art of the possible. But leadership is the art of expanding the possible. Leadership without politics is futile. But politics without leadership is blind. 

$140 Billion for Bonuses, Zero for America’s Future

We are all populists now.

$140 Billion for Bonuses, Zero for America’s Future | OurFuture.org.

This is November and US Steel still has not found financing at reasonable rates to get back to work building [its] plant. They need $1 billion and this project is good for America's industrial capability, workers and environment. But, apparently, Wall Street needs to pay out $140 billion in bonuses this year, speculate on life insurance plans, do “flash trading” on stocks, etc. instead.

What Wall Street Is Supposed To Be Doing

Wall Street and the financial economy are supposed to be to supporting the real economy by playing the role of middleman, connecting sources of money with companies needing that money to allocate capital where it is needed. This is supposed to be a constructive process that helps We, the People fund innovative startup companies, build factories and schools,allocate capital for company expansion and fund other large-scale projects that require a pooling of resources and dilution of risk. That is their essential role in the economy.

But there is a problem with the way Wall Street has been and is operating. Instead of playing a background role supporting the real economy Wall Street has been dominating the economy, influencing the government and running quick-buck schemes, creating bubbles, speculating up prices on commodities and generally running wild. Before the financial meltdown Wall Street was not allocating capital productively, it was allocating capital destructively. In the companies-as-buy/sell-commodities posts I have been exploring how Wall Street's practices has been destroying companies, eliminating jobs and generally wrecking our economy while making a very few vastly wealthy. The company-buyout game turns good companies into debt-ridden, job-shedding shells. The greed-based drive for ever-higher returns tries to destroy companies like Costco because they are “overly generous” to their customers and employees. Wall Street has turned into a machine that grinds up jobs and communities, forcing wage cuts, dehumanization of workplaces, and corruption of our democracy.

November 05, 2009

GOP Health Insurance Proposal saves less, covers fewer

The GOP health insurance proposal would save $34 billion LESS than the Democratic proposal while only covering 3 million new people vs the Democratic proposal covering 40 million more people.  There may be some useful ideas in the proposal to further improve the Democratic one, but gee: cover more, save more with the Democratic proposal!

Republicans have spent months on an absurdist position only to concede in their proposal to do less and cost more.  Hm.

The GOP Proposal - The Daily Dish:

[According to the Congressional Budget Office, the GOP healthcare proposal would] cut close to $70 billion off the deficit in the next ten years.

...Vast numbers of people would be shut out of access to insurance because they just cannot afford it. The GOP's response to this is: we cannot afford to help right now. Which is honest enough. But it doesn't exactly counter the fact that, according to the same CBO, the Democrats bill would save $104 billion off the deficit in the same time period. So, if affordability is what's at stake, why not back the Dems?

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