Posted tagged ‘joe sestak’

Where Are You, Joe, When We Need You?

November 18, 2011

This post is not about Penn State’s Joe Paterno, or Joe DiMaggio for that matter.  It is about Joe Sestak who ran for the US Senate and was defeated in 2010 by Pat Toomey.  If only Joe had won, maybe we, as Pennsylvanians, wouldn’t have to be embarrassed and shamed by our elected US Senator.

Toomey, former Club for Growth President, has been billed as the Republican’s Senate lead dog on tax reform.  He’s on the Super Committee and has made the newspapers this past week with his statements indicating GOP willingness to accept some new tax revenues.  Is this a breakthrough?  I’m afraid not.

Toomey’s plan would trade income tax margin reductions for some tax code deductions.  The net he claims would amount to a $300 billion (read $30 billion per year) tax revenue increase.  Think about that.  The US has a $1 trillion deficit and the GOP proposes $30 billion in offsetting tax revenue increase!

Joe would not have proposed anything like that.  He can do the math.

But Pat Toomey’s proposal is not just about poor math.  It is about outlandish tax policy and abuse of fairness.  Toomey proposes lowering the margin rates from 35% to 28% for the top and lowering from 10% to 8% for the lowest tax bracket.  Think about this.

What is it about unfair income distribution that Toomey does not understand.  The wealthiest would see their marginal rates reduced 7% while the working person would only see a 2% rate decrease and possibly see that offset by the tax code deductions changes.  How could any Republican stand up and make a proposal as preposterous as that?  Joe would never do that.

The real wealthy, that is the top quarter of 1%, receive much, if not most, of their income from dividends and capital gains.  Under Toomey’s proposal they could still keep their 10% dividend/capital gains rate and get a new lower rate on the rest of their income.  Such a deal!

Toomey’s GOP proposal is both unfair and irresponsible.  It does practically nothing for decreasing the deficit and once again hands out generous favors to those who most can afford to pay more.  Joe would never do that.

The GOP spin suggests Democrats are not willing to make big cuts to entitlements.  That may be accurate criticism and if true why doesn’t the GOP layout entitlement cuts and offer in exchange fair increases in tax revenues?

Joe would do that.

Don’t Be A Sucker

November 1, 2010

Tomorrow is election day.  Every voter has a right to vote for whomever they wish.  Every voter should exercise this duty and take personal responsibility for the consequences of that vote.  But don’t be a sucker.

Case in point.  An estimated $2 billion will be spent on television ads for this election.  Most of that two billion will come from sources who actions and beliefs drive to protect or increase their person wealth.  In addition these people’s beliefs and actions most directly underly the current slow economy and inability to create jobs.  This money comes from billionaires and corporations who support policies that export jobs and stifle investment in US based jobs.  Never the less, the Supreme Court counts these corporate entities as people and grants them the right to say what they wish.

One of the claims made against Democratic candidates, by these murky sources, is that Candidate X voted to “gut” Medicare of $500 billion dollars and that is a direct attack on senior citizens.  In Pennsylvania, the Toomey campaign (and all those favoring him) are using this claim against Democrat Joe Sestak.  What are the facts?

In this year’s proposed federal budget, Medicare payroll taxes were estimated to be about $260 billion.  This compares to an estimated expenditure of $763 billion for Medicare and Medicaid benefits.  Or, in this years budget, the government foresees a $503 billion short fall in the Medicare/Medicaid area alone.  So, what do these conservative and Republican sources propose to do if elected?

In addition, the $500 billion is a ten year figure ($50 billion per year).  This figure results largely from reducing payments that flow to “Medicare Advantage” participants by capping the rate at which these plans can increase each year.

So any Pennsylvanian can vote for whomever they wish, but don’t become a sucker by believing the “cuts Medicare” claim.  More to the point, how can conservatives and Republicans criticize Joe Sestak (or any Democrat) for trying to control spending when they will be faced with the same situation which has only two options, cut services or increase taxes, or both.


Face Time

October 25, 2010

With the midterm elections a week away, there is no let up in campaign ads.  This has traditionally been the time when each opponent puts forth their most outlandish claims in hopes their opponent cannot counter in time.

In Pennsylvania, there is a group who call themselves the “Republican-Jewish” committee who introduced an ad that tests the IQ of voters.  The ad claims that Congressman Sestak (3 star Admiral) favors going easy on al Qaeda terrorists.  Their proof… that Sestak supported criminal trials in US Courts.  Instead the Republican-Jewish group called for military courts.  So let me understand this, Jews and Republicans are for secret, military trials?  When in the past have we heard of secret trials?  Try Nazi Germany, Soviet Union, and just about every 3rd rate dictatorship.

But this will make no difference.  It is too late in the campaign for any ads requiring thinking.  Most voters have made up their minds and they are just waiting until November 2 (if they actually vote).

For now both sides must spend money just to keep “face time” in front of voters.  Both campaigns must know that no one is listening.  Voters’ memories are pretty much like a revolving door.  When something new comes in, something old goes out.  Face time is the best last week strategy.



Gutless Is What Gutless Gets

October 7, 2010

Democrats passed landmark legislation this year on the principles that health care should be available for everyone, and that there needed to be a slowing of the out of control yearly increases in health care insurance cost. It took guts to pass this legislation but somewhere along the line Democrats lost their nerve. Now it is coming back to haunt them.

Republicans have deftly framed the health care bill as too costly while at the same time hurting senior citizens. Democrats, rather than standing tall and saying the bill was good for all Americans even though it was not all they wanted, have shrunk into the corner and have bowed their heads. For this gutless behavior Democrats are getting their due.

In Pennsylvania, ads have been running supporting Republican Pat Toomey that claim his opponent, Democrat Joe Sestak, voted for slashing $500 billion from Medicare and those cuts will directly hurt senior citizens. (A word of truth here. In fact there are no cuts. The bill provides that yearly increases in Medicare can not rise at the forecasted rate but at a somewhat lower rate.  This reduction adds to $500 billion over 10 years. With Medicare/Medicaid already projecting outlays three times higher than the wage roll taxes collected, cutting costs seems reasonable.)

So, what did Toomey really mean here? Did he mean we should accept the higher rate of spending?  In other statements Toomey has said he wants to lower taxes.  Is his statement meant to confuse voters?

The answer comes in the most recent Toomey ad. In it Toomey says that Sestak voted for “expensive” health care that is hurting the economy’s recovery. So which side of this issue is Toomey on? Is he against cuts or is in favor of unchecked spending?

It is true that the nuances of health care and its costs are too complex to explain to voters. But what is so complicated as Joe Sestak saying “I voted for leveling the health care playing field and prohibiting insurance companies from denying coverage to you, your children, or your friends and relatives. And, I am proud of that vote.”

So far, Democrats have been gutless and voters are left with only mistruths that conservative groups offer. Gutless is what gutless gets.

Make It Simple

September 14, 2010

The Pennsylvania Senatorial race this year is a microcosm of the national, irrational, political discussion. Republican Pat Toomey’s TV ads equates his opponent, Congressman Joe Sestak, with government spending on things like the “bail outs” and health care, and finishes his ad off with Joe’s too liberal. Ads in support of Sestak, in turn, call Toomey a friend of Wall Street (with plenty of examples) and therefore not a friend of main street. What does all this mean?

These candidates should be herded into a room and asked two questions.

  • What would you do specifically to balance the Federal budget, how much would that save per year, and what services would be reduced (or eliminated)?
  • What steps would you take to enable the US economy to grow (3-4% per year) and if cutting taxes is any part of that, how would you pay for the tax cuts (recycling to question 1, what specifically would you cut, how much you save)?

These are not easy questions for sure. The main line Republican as well as Democratic messages do not address this at all. In my opinion both parties are flawed in their approach to these two important questions.

Balancing the budget is less about the fact that it is unbalanced and mainly about the “lack of political will” to balance it. One is left with the notion that government cannot control itself, a very poor example for the rest of us.

Getting the economy going (or better enabling it to grow) is one of the two primary roles of government (the other being security). Failing to enable a healthy economy will lead to government change every time.

So, let’s make it simple. Answer these questions. See who must bare the burden and whether you believe their approach will work.

Grass Roots Campaign

September 13, 2010

President Obama plans to visit Philadelphia on Monday, September 20. His visit will coincide with a fund raiser for Joe Sestak. Joe ran a “grass roots” campaign to upset long time Senator Arlen Specter in the Democratic primary in March. Sestak is now running against Republican Pat Toomey and faces the national wave to sweep Democrats from office this fall.  Attending the Obama reception will cost $250 and to partake in the dinner (rubber chicken) will cost $1000. Those grass roots are pretty green.

I can not blame Sestak or the Democrats for needing fund raisers. With campaign financing once more a joke in terms of spending limits, Sestak needs money to compete. This spectacle just serves to underscore how money has replaced information. How does the voting public know what Joe thinks or why President Obama supports him?

Philadelphia is a Democratic town. That, however, does not mean that the vote will turn out. Philadelphians are like everyone else. They feel disenfranchised and disillusioned with the overall political process. Sestak is relatively new to politics and his message is mainstream support for the middle class. Sestak is missing a wonderful opportunity to use President Obama’s appeal to Philadelphians, and instead of speaking to a large group of voters in an open setting, he will spend his time with those who already support him.

It is possible that Democratic strategists fear that the Tea Party and other protest groups would spoil an open setting. They may also worry that the President’s policies are not all that popular. On both counts I would suggest, bring them on. Democrats cannot get elected running away from their policies or legislative results. Instead they should stand up and proudly proclaim what they stand for, what they accomplished, and why that is good for all Americans, especially the average voter.

Yes, And…?

August 26, 2010

A new out of State funded attack ad has come to Pennsylvania TV screens. The TV spot characterizes Democrat Senatorial candidate, Joe Sestak, by saying (ominously), “he voted for government health care”. How bad is that?

If you equate government with bad, then this add makes sense. Or, does it?

The US health care system is presently based upon private doctors, hospitals, and insurance providers. US residents enjoy the highest cost per capita and the highest yearly increase in premiums of anyone in the world. The US ranks about 17th in the world for its overall health care and among third world countries in terms of infant mortality. On top of all this, the current system is on a collision course with bankruptcy. So, tell me again what is wrong with more Government involvement? And by the way, seniors love Medicare.

These facts are clear. Where are the Democratic counter ads? It is time for Democrats to get serious about explaining what is really the case and not trying to hide hoping Republicans won’t exploit voter ignorance.

The Mountain Ahead

August 25, 2010

Opinion polls in the Pennsylvania Senate race are favoring Republican Pat Toomey over Democrat Joe Sestak. TV ads supporting Toomey have thundered all summer that Joe Sestak is too liberal. They cite his support of the stimulus package and a straightline vote with the House Democratic majority. While these claims are factually true, what is absent is “so what”.

Health care reform, the stimulus package, and several extensions of unemployment benefits have all been legislation aimed at helping middle class citizens, many of whom consider themselves independent voters. Republican and conservative interests have framed all issues as either an Obama/Pelosi/Reid liberal thing or what? That’s the point, Republicans and conservatives have stopped offering any alternative, and instead are just saying the Democratic way is the wrong way.

Republicans got to this point when they realized that their previous positions were too similar to those that resulted in the financial sector melt down and our current recession (near depression). Imagine trying to fix social security through private sector investment on the heals of most people’s 401K’s having nose dived to as much as 50% of their original value.

It is all about framing the issues. Ads in support of Sestak have pictured Toomey as a friend of Wall Street. While true, this leaves most people wondering what’s so bad about that. Sestak and all other Democrats are going to need to explain how (1) they propose to get the economy moving, and (2) how much they have accomplished in two short years (in terms that mean something to the average person) and specifically how that has helped the voter.

Getting the economy going is not an easy question to answer. Economic growth recently has occurred where credit have been made widely available and easy to obtain. This does result in a lot of new growth and demand, but has always been followed with a lot of wasteful spending and resulting bad debt (for example, the US, Ireland, England, Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain). Asian economies (especially China) have grown by putting to work cheap labor. In the US, many people are set on pushing out Mexicans who are willing to work for low wages. Those who are left will not and can not work as hard or as cheaply, This is catch 22.

I suspect the current economic hole we find the country in will take a substantial time to get out of.  Our free enterprise system will need to find new industries to excel at.    Many States have, in the last 100 years, retooled their local economies, and the same is probably going to be true of the US as a whole. Education and training coupled with tax code stimulus will be key. Probably the most important key is hope and confidence in the future.

Hope and confidence are easiest to project if the candidate speaks reasonably and honestly. In the end, voters place their hope on candidates based upon a mix of impressions. The mountain between Democrats and maintaining a Congressional majority can be made much smaller if Democrats would stop running from their accomplishments and start explaining them in terms middle class people can understand.

The Bloomberg Effect

August 16, 2010

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, will endorse tomorrow Representative Joe Sestak, candidate for the US Senate from Pennsylvania. What is this all about?

Mayor Bloomberg is a business oriented progressive who has made a ton of money during his business career, and has successfully managed New York City pretty much as an Independent. But why is he interested in helping Sestak, who when elected will have Pennsylvanians first on his priority list?

There could be many reasons. The simplest is to assure there would be another friendly vote for matters impacting NYC. Another could be Bloomberg’s sense of fairness. There is already a lot of out of State money flowing into the Pennsylvania Senate campaign and Bloomberg may just want to see a fair fight. If that was all, I would say fairness is not his objective.

Sestak’s opponent, Pat Toomey, is everything a progressive is not. Toomey made his mark on Wall Street, spend 3 terms as a US Representative, and recently serve as President for the club for growth. Toomey advocates a long list of issues that have been shown to be bad for American, and would be bad for Pennsylvania and NYC. Retaining a Democratic Senate majority is in Mayor Bloomberg’s best interest and he is willing to put his influence on the line.

The interesting thing about this race is that the basic facts should not be in dispute. Sestak is progressive and Toomey is conservative. Voters should be able to decide this election (yea or nay) on their records and their words. Unfortunately it is not, and will not be that simple. A hint about how distorted this race will become happened a couple of weeks ago when William Kristol (former publisher of the Weekly Standard and outspoken advocate for invading Iraq and in general the Bush/Cheney Administration), released ads claiming Sestak was for Hamas and therefore against Israel. He cited Sestak’s speech at a fund raising dinner for a group which was praised by the FBI and on the evening where Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell (who is Jewish) gave the main address.

In today’s campaigns, the truth is not enough and is routinely smeared with misinformation, distortions, and if necessary out right lies. It should be helpful for Sestak to have someone whose record is well know, whose pockets are deep, and who is not afraid to assert his opinion on his side.

The Great Revelation

May 29, 2010

Yesterday the White House released news about nothing. The release satisfied the shark appetites of the news media who, to be honest, are tired of reporting on the BP disaster which they know nothing about. The shortcomings of people is a different story.  So as the sunset on Washington DC, American learned that former President Bill Clinton had offered Congressman Joe Sestak an appointment to a Presidential commission if Sestak would remain in Congress and not run for Arlen Specter’s Senate seat.

The hype around the non-story shows how desperate the media is for some real news. Yet the news they thought might be buried there was trivial in the grand scheme of things. Politics is about trade offs and compromises. That Democrats would have preferred Sestak remain a Congressman and not contest Specter is just as predictable.

The dark part of this story is that only if there had been something really tainted, like Clinton offering large bags of cash to Sestak would the Democratic request broken the smell meter.

The real revelation part of the story is that Joe Sestak will oppose former Congressman Pat Toomey, and Toomey’s first ads have been positive and accurate. Toomey is a conservative and Sestak is a progressive. What a change it will be to have the chance to vote for one of two people who say who they really are.