Archive for the ‘national debt’ category

Call Me Cynical

March 2, 2017

President Trump has announced his intentions to increase Defense spending by $50 billion, an increase “badly needed” according to the President. Hmmm.

The President’s story gets a little cloudy when he says he can pay for this budget increase by shifting money from the State Department and the EPA. This proposed slight of hand is necessary because (1) President Trump and most Republicans want to cut taxes, (2) the President wants to launch a $1 trillion dollar infrastructure plan, and (3) there is the inconvenient law restricting what increases in spending are possible (sequestration). Do we hear the deficit increasing on the GOP’s watch?

President Trump has proclaimed that part of making America Great Again is “rebuilding” the military, woefully underfunded, the President says. Hmmm. The Defense budget weighs in at slightly under $600 billion, more than all other countries combined. An increase of $50 billion or 8% could procure some more airplanes and ships, or could be used to outfit more sailors or troops. But for what purpose?

The Presidents suggestion of taking money from the State Department is laughable unless there were to be across the board reductions in Federal Government spending. But even the act of decreasing Defense and State Department budgets begs the central question, what is to be the over arching US foreign policy?

Many observers have had their fill of the notion that the US is world’s policeman. And to be sure, the US policies in Afghanistan and Iraq have been poorly thought through and to date, failures. But policeman and deterrent can be two different situations. A deterrent if effective can keep other nations from aspiring to enforce their wills on other nations, for example Russia, China, or Iran. Does the President or his advisors really think that buying more planes, ships, and tanks will be sufficient for him to “bluff” other countries into following America’s wishes?  And what will happen if the President’s bluff doesn’t work?

Beefing up the military is a nice sop for his nationalistic followers, especially those who have never worn a military uniform (like the President). More Defense spending will also please a lot of Defense Contractor CEOs. Hmmm.

Taking the money from State Department and the EPA, however, may reflect other motives. Weakening the State Department could (and most likely would) make implementing US foreign policy dependent upon military action. A self fulfilling prophecy so to speak.  Will President Trump be a war President?  Neoconservative rhetoric can be infectious until implemented, then if becomes deadly for the sons and daughters of other Americans.

It is the EPA donation may shine more light on an underlying and even more sinister motive. Which sounds more responsible to you, (1) cutting the EPA budget purposely so the EPA will become resource starved and cannot continue key programs like enforcement of clean air and water regulations or those related to global warming, or (2) cutting the EPA to fund serious national security concerns, and oh yes, unfortunately with a restricted budget the EPA simply cannot do as much as before?

Hmmm.

Where Is The Center In Troubled Times?

January 18, 2017

When George W Bush was elected in 2000, Bush campaigned as a “compassionate conservative”. What could be better, a mix of pragmatism and concern for others? The wealthy smiled as the Bush Administration made a case for two tax cuts. The evangelical community smiled when government policy turned upon science severely limiting stem cell research and linking foreign aid to impoverished countries’ family planning methods.

And the gates were opened for the neoconservative movement, blindly supporting Israel and simultaneously destabilizing the Arab world. Along came the Patriot Act, secret subpoenas, and Justice Department sanctioned torture.  Hmmm. That America’s part of the world tilted strongly to the right and away from the center would be an understatement.

Barack Obama brought into power countervailing tendencies. Science was again respected as evidenced by renewed concerns about global warming, use of data in forming public policy, and research into solar and wind technology. The Obama Administration pointedly worked to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and to close the dark spot on America’s image, the Guantanamo Detention Facility. And, most remarkably, the Obama Administration attempted to bring US healthcare into the realm of other world class, modern industrial countries by passing the Affordable Care Act.

The Republican Party, lead by the Tea Party/Freedom Coalition howled in horror about the reckless race to the left. It was not, however, clear that President Obama was guiding America towards the “center” until Bernie Sanders’s campaign revealed much more progressive goals. For many conservatives, however, President Obama’s policies represented socialism, if not outright communism.  To highlight this, the Republican Party’s complete rejection of Merritt Garland’s Supreme Court nomination underscores GOP rejection of centrist governance.

As the Trump Administration readies itself to take office, the Republican controlled Congress appears like the cat ready to eat the canary. The Republican Congress can’t wait to take the country back and “back” will be well to the right of center.

The unknown, strangely is President-elect Trump. Will he focus upon the ideological right or what ever is needed to stimulate economic growth? Will President Trump trade support for right wing ideas in return for support of his growth initiatives? Or, even worse as some conservatives worry, would a President Trump simply be a Democrat in Republican clothing?

“Regaining The Center” may appear a desirable goal, especially in comparison to the conservative hinterlands Republicans boast as the fruits of taking America back. The GOP possesses enough votes in Congress that Republican initiatives can carry the day. “Regaining the Center” may serve the reader well by putting GOP policies in context as a public reminder that Republicans seek benefits for their wealthiest members, at the expense of the average person.  If there are benefits, these pluses flow incidental to their main purpose.

For now, the GOP and the Trump Administration can do pretty much what they wish. In two years and again in four, voters get to assess Republican stewardship.  As with George W Bush’s Administration whose results were mixed but on the big issues, failures, “Regaining the Center” may sound prophetic.  The center may soon appear much less unsettling for independents to shift left of the Trump Administration without doing a full Bernie Sanders.

 

The New Year Or Is It The Boo Year?

January 2, 2017

The new year is upon us and all the giddy Republicans can talk about is the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. In actual terms Republicans are unable to repeal Obamacare since Senate Democrats can filibuster such legislation. What Republicans have said is instead they will “defund” ACA, effectively rendering major parts of the healthcare legislation unusable. As for the “replace” portion, well that’s not quite on the drawing boards yet.

Does this sound like a group that can govern?

The Affordable Care Act is credited with bringing healthcare insurance coverage to about 20 million Americans who otherwise could not afford or were outrightly denied healthcare insurance. Medicare, Medicaid, and employer provided plans cover most Americans so who cares about the Affordable Care Act anyways?

The Republican mantra is “let the free market” loose and the problem of coverage will be solved. The US will return to the slogan “the best healthcare money can buy”. If you only have a little money, you can enjoy just a little healthcare.

Republican talking heads, of course, say otherwise. President-elect Trump has promised “great healthcare” as an Obamacare replacement. Yet no one has presented a replacement plan.  Hmmm.

Healthcare spending (about 3 trillion dollars) is a much tougher problem than gutting Obamacare. US per capita healthcare spending far exceeds any other country in the world. Reigning in healthcare spending while still providing coverage, arguably, is more important to balancing the budget. These brave Republicans leaders are noticeably silent about healthcare costs.

And as for the vaunted free enterprise system which will magically fix the defects in Obamacare, recognize that free enterprise was responsible for life time insurance caps, denial of coverage due to pre-existing conditions, and limits on the age children qualify for coverage under their parent’s policies. So how exactly are these “for profit” insurance companies going to fix something they created?

So, in these early days of 2017, Americans are beginning to see what lies ahead. The amalgamation of petty and special interests which comprise the Republican Party will emerge and will signal the return to the party of the few. The “few” are those who can afford to be Americans and are willing to vote for the Republican ticket.

President-elect Trump is a different factor and may see the replace situation differently.  Trump cannot be reelected by relying on gerrymandered districts. Trump must consider the wishes of a majority in each State.

President Trump must assess what is being proposed to replace Obamacare on how voters will react. The President-elect lost the popular vote by almost 3 million votes and some suggest as little as 100,000 votes in certain States would have flipped the electoral college outcome. Hmmm.

President Trump and the Republican controlled Congress, however, have the opportunity to govern for all Americans. How they actually deal with the Affordable Care Act will foretell whether 2017 will be a new year or a boo year.

Trump’s Hidden Message

March 3, 2016

While GOP leaders are breathlessly talking about stopping Donald Trump’s candidacy, no one seems to be taking stock of why Trump has been so wildly popular with his supporters.

These GOP big shots seem to have correctly diagnosed the shattering effect his candidacy could have on the current amalgam called the Republican Party. Trump as the Presidential nominee would expose the GOP for what it is – a collection of ideological desperate elements with no single unifying purpose, save one. The one unifying GOP theme is “we are not Democrats” whatever that means.

The current Republican Party rrepresents a collection of regular Americans mixed in with “bible thumpers” who instead of espousing Christian values like “love thy neighbor” prefer to hate others for their gender or sexual preferences, “wealthy Americans” who want to pay less taxes despite any consequences, “xenophobes” who may even be one generation in the US but want the door closed for other immigrants, “budget hawks” who want to reduce the deficit without regard to any consequences, and “hard core of anti-Obama critics” who see anything done by the President as inherently worthless.

So, which of these groups has Trump successfully satisfied? Hmmm.

The hidden Trump message appeals to a few of these segments, but resonates strongly with a differently defined group, the Trumpskiites.

These new Trump frontier fighters are feeling an economic pinch, have looked around and see a lot of government spending going to assist this designated group or that one, and no noticeable sign that homelessness or poverty is improving.

The Trumpskiites see the US throwing good money after bad and want one of two things. (1) Stop spending money on the poor, refugees, and corporate welfare seekers. Or, (2) energize the economy so much that they (each Trumpskiite) gets a good job or pay increase so big that their lot in life improves so much they can overlook the tax money going to the other “freeloaders”.

The Trumpskiites are not ideologues. They may or may not care about abortion or women’s rights, they may or may not care about refugees, they may or may not care about religious symbols in public spaces, they may or may not care about gender and sexual orientations, and for the most part they are ambivalent about Obamacare. What they care about is their own personal lot in life and see the government wasting a lot of money on the poor and a diverse collection of other things.

Trumpskiites are first and foremost about themselves. They are relatively content to let others get along with their lives providing they do not adversely impact their lives. Hmmm.

If this observation is correct, it is not a large step of logic to recognize that Trumperskiites should exist within the Democrat Party too. In fact, they might make up the real “silent majority”. Hmmm.

Trump’s hidden message exposes Republican and Democrat shortcomings: Republicans may wish not to spend any more Federal dollars even though the bridge in their hometown is about to fall down, and Democrats are only to ready to spend money to build a new one even though the bridge might be cheaper to repair or might not be needed at all. Trumpskiites could support either position, let the bridge fall down or repair it but only if life gets economically better for them first. Hmmm.

This is a dangerous message pitting individuals against common good while exposing politicians more interested in perpetuating their time in office than caring for the public good.  Will Americans wake up and demand better from their elected officials?

GOP – Near Sighted?

August 29, 2015

The 2016 Presidential elections preliminaries are underway. Both Parties have begun their primary processes, and pundits speculate daily over which candidates will become their party’s standard bearer. Hillary Clinton has appeared the Democrat favorite and in polls has been preferred over all the GOP hopefuls. So, is the election over (already)?

Not so fast.

Hillary Clinton is like honey, she attacks all sorts of attackers who hunger for her defeat. Clinton, however, is every bit their match. She campaigns in a highly controlled manner and provides as few openings for her opponents as possible. The “Bengazi morphed into private email server” controversy has lasted this long mainly because Clinton has chosen to not engage the issue (apparently because she believes it is irrelevant). Clinton’s strategy, however, has given credence to a “trustworthiness” issue and the original Clinton glow has faded somewhat. She appears beatable although defeat is by no means certain.

The GOP seems unwilling to accept this opportunity to win back the White House. With Donald the Trump leading the way, most of the Presidential candidates have made prejudicial comments while campaigning. To be sure, with 16 hopefuls, attracting voter attention is not easy. A “near sighted” party, however, must recognize that the way they attract attention now will have consequence in the future election.

Recent reports indicate the broader GOP controlled Congress might enter the election dynamics. When Congress returns from its summer recess, it will be facing a budget and debt hurdle of their own making.

GOP Congressional members have laid down the gauntlet that any budget or any debt extension bill must contain measures that “defund” planned parenthood. Do you see the connection?

Apparently these GOP Congress members think they can hold hostage the budget and debt extension (that is the US paying its bills) until Democrats agree to defund Planned Parenthood. It is hard to image anything more nearsighted. Women and poor citizens vote in the national election and will remember a Government shutdown (again).

One can question whether Planned Parenthood represents a substantive issue or whether GOP support is just a cynical sop for their evangelical wing. In either case, Planned Parenthood has nothing of meaning to do with either the Budget or the Debt. Even worse, politically speaking Planned Parenthood plays right into the Democrat’s claim that the GOP is conducting a war on women.

As in 2012, the GOP sees things differently. Focusing two inches away, they see a path to defund Planned Parenthood, and see no consequences. Maybe the country is not ready for nearsighted President.