Archive for the ‘GOP’ category

More Than A New Voice

May 30, 2018

For many who believed Donald Trump was a terrible choice for America, there is little in his first term that would give one pause over that belief.  President Trump has been a national disgrace in dealing with foreign affairs and foreign leaders.  The President has been for, and then against, a wide range of domestic issues.  And, the President’s wanton disregard for the “Emolument” clause has brought the specter of a two bit, third world Presidency to the forefront. 

The Republican controlled Congress has amazingly been silent on President Trump’s behavior and cheered his partisan behavior on issue such as unfunded tax cuts, abandonment of 11 million undocumented residents, and naked attacks on groups hated by evangelicals such as LGBTQ, pro-choice, and women’s rights.  

As midterms approach, the question being asked more often is whether Democrats can put forward a “voice” whose message will persuade enough voters to return Democrats to control of Congress.

So, what might that voice say to voters to earn their vote?

Jobs.  From the 2016 Presidential election results it should be clear that emphasis on any other issue(s) without first establishing believable policies which will produce better jobs are non-starters.  “I’m With Her” or “Inclusion”, while admirable, miss the hot button for most Americans.   Even retraining proposals, while essential, are not the “voice” under employed or out of work Americans want to hear.

Keeping America’s Promise.  Republicans see the growing deficit and debt as an opportunity to make the case for sharp reduction in entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security) and a wide range of healthcare and “safety net” programs.  Republicans are prone to say when referring to the growing national debt, “America has a spending problem not a taxing problem”.  For most Americans, however, even the ones who are resolutely Trump supporters, simply cutting entitlements, healthcare, and safety net items is tantamount to breaking a promise the US Government has made to all Americans.

Restoring the American Dream.  The bulk of Americans (bottom 98% of incomes) do not believe they will achieve more than their parents.  Income inequality has continued, if not accelerated, to grow under President Trump.  Democrats need to emphasize policies which will allow ALL boats to rise, not just the top 2 % of earners.

But is that all it will take?

Maybe.  These three points will speak to most Americans.  If Democrat candidates follow a reasonably moderate path and speak animatedly about Jobs, Keeping America’s Promise, and Restoring the American Dream, the chances of Democrats gaining majorities in Congress are good.  But is that enough?

Probably, it is enough to flip Congress for the next two years but Americans are suspicious of politicians and their slippery words.  Sustaining Democrat control and winning the White House in 2020 will take more.

What is needed, more importantly, is a quiet commitment for integrity and avoidance of personal gain associated with Congressional business.  There is no way either party can deliver on campaign promises when Congress members are preoccupied with personal gain or distracted by integrity issues.

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The Progressive Missteps

April 26, 2018

Today, the Republican Party and especially its extreme conservative and libertarian wings are undermining our  country’s social safety net, environmental protections, and world standing. Will future generations be able to put the Country back together?  

We hear from our Conservative and Libertarian friends that their policies are based upon the firm belief that money earned is ones personal property and not the province of the government.  Reduce government spending (on everything but defense) is the prescription.  This will allow the government to lower, if not eliminate income taxes.  

Most Americans are still stuck in the “free lunch” phase.  Who doesn’t prefer lower taxes?  But since there are no free lunches, Americans will soon learn “you get what you pay for”.  As this realization settles in, voters will have an opportunity to shift the balance of power back to progressives.

But what were the Progressive Missteps which facilitate the Republican take over?

  • How about electing the first woman President
  • Or, nominating the first openly gay or lesbian Mayor
  • Or, applauding the first transgender
  • Or, hailing government support for wind and solar energy while not announcing confirmed retraining programs for displaced coal workers.

One might think these missteps were simply a messaging issue.  Maybe these choice were just messaging but the perception too many Americans received was that being gay, lesbian, or transgender was more important than merit qualifications for the job in question.  

Without a doubt for some Americans the woman’s place is in the home, gays et al are an abomination, and America is being bullied into killing coal.  Far more Americans, however, are interested in results and merit and the color, gender, religion, or country of origin are irrelevant.  Fairness and earning the chance on the basis of ability is the American way. 

In addition, the advancement of automation or renewable fuels, no matter how sensible, appear naked without some reference coupled with action for those left behind (retraining, supplemental aid, new jobs).

The 2020 Presidential election will test whether Democrats, liberals, and progressives have learned from the bitter 2016 election.  There will be no shortage of real world examples of the poor choices the Trump Administration has made.  

The 2018 midterms will offer progressives a chance to offer new messaging.  For the sake of the country, let us hope there is more to the “messaging” and center and left of center candidates have meaningful policies too. 

If not “missteps” will change to “marching in the wrong direction”.

Conor Lamb and Consequences

March 14, 2018

Yesterday, in the Pennsylvania 18th District, Conor Lamb prevailed over Republican Rick Saccone in an election of dubious consequences. The 18th District has in recent years been a relatively safe Republican seat due largely to the disaffected large union population and generous gerrymandering.  President Trump carried this district by 20 points as an example.

So, what was so bad about Saccone or what was so good about Lamb?

Interviews with Trump voters in the 18th and several other districts across the country have revealed that many Trump voters are souring on the President as a person but overwhelmingly like the President because “Trump  gets things done”. Hmmm.

This comment suggests that these voters were disgusted with other politicians claiming they would change this or that, and in the end do nothing.

So, let’s look at some of President Trump’s successes. Lamb did not reject the President’s actions but asked 18th District voters what consequences might follow,.

For example,  Republicans gloated about tax cuts. Lamb asked, what government programs, important to the 18th District, might not happen or might need to be cut back when the Federal Government realizes it has too little money.  How about badly needed investment in roads, bridges, and ports?

Lamb did not say tax cuts are unfair or a bad idea because they grossly benefit the already wealthy (which they do). Rather Lamb framed the Trump action in terms where the consequences would be real to his district’s voters. Lower taxes would also put pressure upon Medicare, Medicaid, and social security Lamb said. Infrastructure projects would be slowed along with the new jobs that would be associated with development.

The key to Lamb’s approach was treating respectively potential voters, many of whom had voted for President Trump. He did not slam Trump as a person but kept the focus upon the President’s policies and what the consequences would likely be.

Even with healthcare, Lamb refrained from advocating universal healthcare but instead spoke of the right of all sick Americans to receive healthcare they could afford. Read more of Conor Lamb’s policies.  Hmmm.

Lamb’s intangibles came through as honesty and bias for action. Lamb appears clean-cut, honest, and hard working. In this contest, that was enough.

Questions About Guns

February 26, 2018

The big question this week is how long will the news media keep reporting on the Parkland, Florida mass school shooting and in particular whether any changes to gun laws will follow. Here are three questions and some observations.

The Second Amendment speaks to the “right to bear arms” but does not refer to what type of arms. Were the founding fathers speaking of single action, ball and cartridge muskets, or did they perceive the coming of bullets and the civil war lever action repeater rifles?

The Supreme Court construed the 2nd Amendment as the right of any citizen to possess a gun for personal protection in the home. The Supreme Court noted that Congress and States legislatures could pass reasonable controls clarifying what type of guns, and where beyond the home, guns could be used. The Court also stated that reasonable controls could also include suspending a citizens right to a fire arm if due process was served.

Question #1: Fully automative guns, both hand and long guns, are illegal to possess, why is it accepted that a military style AR-15 (and other similar brands) are ok?

Leading politicians, Governors, Representatives, and Senators (not to mention the President) are all citing the need to study this latest incident carefully. Most all these politicians sigh and confess that it is difficult to see what could have been done to have avoided the Parkland shootings. These pro-gun politicians allow that tougher background checks, while good, would not have prevented Nikolas Cruz from acquiring legally his AR-15, extra clips and unnecessarily large amount of ammunition (because the FBI did not act upon tips called in by concerned citizens).

Question #2: What is the logic that allows Cruz (age 19) to legally buy an AR-15 when Cruz could not by a hand gun nor buy beer?

Probably the most often heard statement when a pro-gun politicians is asked about simply banning assault weapons is that most AR-15 owners are law abiding citizens and why should they have to surrender their 2nd Amendment rights? These politicians then follow with they support stronger background checks as long as the Federal checks do not inconvenience those lawfully seeking a weapon.

If you listen carefully, pro-gun supporters might accept some toughening of background checks (but not national gun registration list), accept the idea of mental health screening (but no government capability to link gun ownership to some future mental health condition), and at the end of the day, believe guns in the hands of good people is the best defense to guns in the hands of bad people (more guns is the answer to Parkland).

Does this sound disingenuous?

Question #3: If the conclusion to this open discussion does not include further restrictions on availability of guns (e.g. assault weapon ban, restriction on clip size, age and training criteria before guns could be owned), why should we not expect another “Parkland” or “Las Vegas” type mass shooting again soon?

When our politicians discuss publicly guns and gun control, they present a disquieting image which screams their words are insincere.  Some try the “wise man” approach (our society is very complex and the restrictions being suggested will not eliminate gun violence and seem very unfair to law abiding citizens), while others dismiss the subject as inevitable (guns don’t kill, people kill).

Comment: How can our youth not become further disenchanted with government and our elected leaders?

European Socialism

February 25, 2018

Wayne LaPierre, National Rifle Association CEO, spoke this week at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Committee). At a time when concern and sensitivity for the parents and friends of the 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida was called for, LaPierre showed little sympathy and instead stuck to the heart and intent of his (probably) already written speech.

For LaPierre, the mass shootings were cut and dry. The school was simply too soft a target.

LaPierre had come to CPAC to bury Caesar, not praise him, and in the process make clear that all Democrats were really destructive socialist who wanted nothing less than European Socialism to spread through out America… the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Capitalism and our Constitutional rights were what LaPierre proclaimed as the basis of making America the greatest country on earth. The implication, of course, is that Democrats (and by extension) anyone who is not a far right conservative, was set on ending America’s exceptionalism.

I wonder what LaPierre and his speech writers are thinking?

  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees are unaware of European Countries since Europe is so far away?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees do not know that European Countries offer their residents universal healthcare which delivers superior healthcare to all residents at one half the cost which Americans pay?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees do not recognize the income inequality is greater in the US than in Europe?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees think Europeans are envious of American roads, education, and how Americans deal with their elderly?
  • Could it be that most CPAC attendees believe America is the safest country in the world?

La Pierre and his NRA staff have done a masterful job of framing the second Amendment as analogous to breathing fresh air. The logical extension, however, of La Pierre’s argument is for all Americans to openly carry weapons and in any dispute, for any reason, to “stand your ground” and use deadly force if necessary. This is apparently the NRA’s vision of the American Dream.

CPAC is not a monolithic organization as it relates to guns.

  • CPAC has members who do not know which end of a gun shoots bullets.
  • CPAC members/attendees do see lower taxes as good without concern for the consequences such as necessary cuts in social programs aimed at less fortunate Americans.
  • Some CPAC members see religious rights (that is the right to express their deeply held religious views) as a means to discriminate against fellow Americans in what they see as a legal way.
  • Other CPAC members seek weak or no regulations allowing oil and gas exploration freely without regard to consequences.
  • In short, CPAC represents a group of single issue Americans whose America protects those aspects which they believe is best for themselves and consequences be damned.

Unfettered capitalism is a two headed beast. One head which acts as an engine and propels the economy forward, is not only good but necessary. The other head, which is greedy, destructive, and without conscience, is dangerous and demands wise limitations on ability to run free.

A wise CPAC would seek a balance between the old wild west and the modern 21st century in which we live. A wise CPAC would realize that Wayne LaPierre and the NRA have gone off the reservation and should be viewed with a dim opinion.

Will The Chicken Hawks Return?

February 15, 2018

Dan Coats, Director of National Intelligence, has been testifying this past week before Congressional Committees. One news report quoted Coats as saying the US was running out of time to convince North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons programs. Coats indicated that soon only military force would remain a viable option. WHAT ???

George W Bush is still alive and so is the chief chicken hawk, Dick Chaney. The memory of their fiasco telling Americans that when the US invaded Iraq our soldiers would be welcomed by Iraqis throwing flower petals at their feet as they marched by. To be sure some Iraqis threw objects at American soldiers feet but flower petals were not the objects.

The Iraq invasion and occupation remains one, if not the, greatest foreign policy failure whose consequences Americans will be visiting for years to come. The invasion opened a pandora’s box (to the surprise of Cheney and Bush) and unleashed sectarian violence through out the region. Instead of intimidating the Iranians, events embolden them to drive even harder developing nuclear weapons.

On the domestic front, Americas recognized once more that older men send younger men off to war, promise the soldiers full support and then proceed to forget about military members including those wounded and maimed when they return home.

North Korea is a two-bit country which may in fact develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver the weapons to US soil. North Korea will join a list of 8 other nations also capable of deploying the “bomb”. Does Coats think China and Russia will stand by an allow the US to “take out” North Korea or any of the others preemptively?

The conservative right may feel bold and think giving North Korea a “bloody nose” in some type of preemptive move is a wise tactic. Regrettably, these “black-white” thinkers can not recognize today’s world contours. Instead they project American military strength around the world as if military strength was unique and more appropriate than diplomacy. Current generation conservatives appear more comfortable making short term decisions and in the process frittering away America’s moral and strategic leadership.

Strategic patience was the term President Obama used to encompass a comprehensive strategy for combatting North Korea and other uncooperative States. Strategic Patience foresees bad behavior by small countries as a nuisance, not an imminent threat.  And, in any comprehensive policy, President Obama’s Administration tried to engage other powers including Russia and China in attempts to find global solutions for nuisance countries.

In contrast, the Bush/Cheney era was driven by “neo-conservatives” who relied upon rattling the saber rather then undertaking the more nuanced hard work of diplomacy. Sending other people’s children to war against smaller countries was the hallmark of these “chicken hawks”. Shooting first, thinking (about the consequences) later defined these misguided leaders.

Under President Obama, foreign policy was forged with a heavy emphasis on assessing the world as it was and as it was trending. Sending our soldiers into war became a last resort.

I wonder whether Coats testimony has accidentally revealed the emergence of a new generation of chicken hawks?

Unfit From Any Angle

February 11, 2018

The current crowd that comprises the Republican Party’s Congressional members are unfit to govern. So tell me something that I didn’t know already. Hmmm.

Throughout the Obama years, Republican leaders postured time and again about Obama Administrations incompetence. Republicans pointed to the slow growing US economy, the size of Federal Deficits, and the ruinous impact the Affordable Care Act was having upon jobs were rallying calls. Despite all evidence to the contrary, the Republican message never the less kept reinforcing the dooms day outlook.

From the day former President Obama took office, while the US economy was steadily slipping into the dangerous territory between recession and depression, the Obama Administration pushed for a balanced approach between Keynesian economic stimulation and “doing the right thing” legislation.

The 2008 economic decline bottomed out and the Affordable Care Act came into law providing healthcare for millions more. General Motors was saved from itself, consumer protection measures were put in place, and human rights enforcement became the Justice Department’s focus.

The Economy grew around 2-2.5%, unemployment steadily decreased, while America’s GDP growth lead the pack of developed countries. In foreign policy, the Obama Administration proposed that the Middle East policies should not cloud or block America’s view that an emerging super power China must be dealt with. Also, Iran and North Korea both were subject to diplomatic efforts aimed at controlling those countries’ nuclear programs while also recognizing the limits of military force. And, climate realities were met straight on with the US announcing it would join the Paris Climate Agreement in hopes of a global effort to confront global warming.

During President Trump’s first year, the past 8 years have been “denied”. The President has appointed, and the Republican controlled Congress has confirmed, Cabinet Secretaries who were either unqualified or were avowed opponents of each Department’s goals. Turning the Asylum over to the inmates would summarize the executive branch.

Important trade alliances were cast aside and the “what does this mean” slogan America First was substituted. America First is sure fired, naive call which is certain to result in less international cooperation. But the best was yet to come.

The Congress tried it best to repeal and replace Obamacare only to find that strong grass roots support for the Affordable Care Act existed and a repeal threaten the electoral viability of Republican Congress Members. Disappointed but not deterred, the Congress moved on to “tax reform” which in short order emerged as “tax cuts”.

The rush for tax cuts was strange since most business people would ask what would be the spending plan against which levying taxes could logically be set. Republican leaders and spokespersons, however, tried to frame the tax cuts as a means to grow the economy faster and magically paying for themselves.

The tax cuts passed with Republican votes and America woke up to the news that these tax cuts would add another $1.5 trillion to the deficit. Republicans then touted the GDP growth rate as already accelerating, (a near impossibility due to any recent cause and effect).

Republicans claimed that economic growth was now 3% and heading north. Republicans did not say that other modern countries were also experiencing economic growth and relatively speaking, the US was growing no faster than its major trading partners.

Even worse was the recognition that when the US economy heats up, the risk of inflation increases too. So the perfect storm is forming.

Inflation is around the corner, unemployment is near bottom (so where are the workers going to come from to man the heated economy), Republicans’ anal Mexican policies are severely restricting much needed labor, and after 10 years of expansion, sooner or later a real contraction must take over.

But there is more.

This week Democrats and Republicans compromised, not on prudent budget cuts, but instead on fiscally irresponsible, unpaid government spending. This compromise resulted from a basic inability to set national priorities and in order for one group (like Defense spenders) to get their funding, they had to go allow with Democrat favored domestic policies.

Americans will have the GOP to thank for

  • expensive healthcare
  • rising inflation
  • no tools left to stimulate the economy (taxes have already been cut and interest rates are still low) when inevitably the economy slows and slips into a recession.
  • Trading partners will take care of themselves first (as instructed) taking away a consumer of our goods and services.
  • Federal Debt interest rate costs will begin to choke out other spending.
  • A darkening view of the utility (not mention the honesty) of elected officials will occur to more Americans.
  • The American Dream and the necessary “can do” spirit will be stunted.

In real life, most Americans do not have the experience or the time to understand what their Republican elected leaders have put in play.  America First sounds good, and who is not in favor of lower taxes.  For unexplained reason, for profit insurance companies standing between Americans and their doctors sounds better than Government (as in all other modern healthcare systems around the world).

There are many reasons Republican Congress Members are unfit.  Most likely the corrosive effect of money is at the root.  Wealthy individuals have organized and fueled ideologues to frame issues and mold public opinion.  Money speaks, lots of money speaks louder.

The Republican Party has found ballot box success parroting these wealth back conservative think tanks.  Americans are about to find out from real experience, Republicans are unfit to govern.