Posted tagged ‘tea party’

Doing The GOP A Favor

November 22, 2013

Yesterday, Senate Democrats changed the rules.  No longer will the minority party be able to filibuster Presidential appointments “just because”.  With a simple majority vote appointment candidates will come to the Senate floor for an up or down vote.   Sounds like commonsense.   Why is this a favor?

As with the government shut down maneuvers, the GOP (by blocking executive and judicial nominations) has been shooting itself while hurting the rest of the country.  There is no doubt that if another “Scalia” or “Alito” or “Thomas” came up for nomination in subsequent years, Democrats would do all in their power to prevent confirmation.  But in the end, elections have consequences.  This rule change will apply to Democrats also.

The GOP, of course, is not a homogeneous party any longer.  Republicans have lost their way in an attempt to retain power.   The inclusion of Tea Party, evangelicals, and strongly conservative factions has made the GOP a different party.

Tea Party and strongly conservative members have been willing to abandon commonsense and previous precedents with regards to how a loyal opposition behaves.  While this minority within a larger GOP minority may feel strongly about their causes and are frustrated, they have acted in a manner which is incompatible with good governance.  In other words, if Democrats acted similarly, nothing would get done in Congress.

Those awake within the GOP realize also that their right wing conservative causes are out of step with America.  Gays, women, the poor, and immigrants see no future in the GOP’s legislative actions.  Just as out of step are their tactics.  Shutting down government over a healthcare plan for which there are no alternatives being offered?  These are two totally disconnected issues not to mention the hollowness of the shut down when nothing was offered as an alternative.

The rule change has probably not changed the strongly conservatives’ thinking yet.  Some warn that they will become even more disruptive.  Who knows?

For the GOP, however, it offers a chance for the Party to reassess itself.  If the answer is that the GOP can only have a chance of winning the White House with an active group of extremists, then it is lights out for the GOP.  If, on the other hand, a fiscally conservative, social value libertarian, and pro-small business party could emerge there would be hope again for a productive two party system.

I hope this will be seen as a favor.

The Budget/Debt Lessons

October 16, 2013

At a time of unrelenting frustration with Congressional governance, it is difficult to see any good that will come of this childish behavior.  What must foreign opposition think when weighing their strategic options to circumvent US national interests?  Domestically, what must Americans think when asked to follow laws they do not like but are told it is the “law of the land”?  Is there anything to be learned?

First we must recognize that this current crisis is just a moment in time.  The details of the October 17 debt limit deadline will come and pass.  Regardless of whether there is a technical default or not, the sun will rise and someplace it will rain.  And my guess is there will be another equally senseless crisis to follow.

Shutting down the government and possibly forcing a technical default will carry too much negative baggage to be a useful long term political tactic.  The Tea Party’s inspired political opposition will move on and find some other way to give its minority views air and if possible make them part of the political dialogue.

Remember, Congress members are where they are in order to increase their own personal net worth.  Congressional behavior which inhibits that objective will be rooted out eventually.

But what other lessons can be learned?

  • First, I would suggest we recognize the checks and balances inherent in our government.  While today, a minority are causing great disruption, they are doing their mischief within the frame work of the Constitution and the rules of Congress.  You do not have to look to far to see how other governments solve their irreconcilable difference.
  • Second, elections have consequences.  The Tea Party/Ultra Right are simply following through on what they promised when they ran for office.  One can agree or disagree with their principles, but the tactics they are willing to use should give all sensible people reason to pause.  The choice for Americans will be not just principles (like low taxes or less government) but methods (like stopping government service despite who it hurts).  A “casting studio” appearance couples with bags of campaign financing is no longer sufficient criteria to support the election of candidates.

The greater question is whether Americans will stop and try and learn from this crisis, or just move on to next Saturday’s football game.

The Hidden Danger

October 15, 2013

As each day passes in Washington, and more incredible statements are issued by Congressional members, the average citizen sits and wonders how and when will this end?  Rather than looking forward to a sigh of relief, there is a more than a reasonable chance we are looking at how business will be conducted in the future.

There is no question that entitlement spending and the Affordable Care Act are two aspects upon which most Democrats and most Republicans strongly disagree.  The divergence of thought has in the past been decided by time and changes in party majorities.  As time would show the current entitlements to be unfair or unsustainable, more Republicans would be elected and legislation would follow to correct the alleged defects.  That might not be how things will work in the future.

“Why wait” seems the call of Tea Party and Ultraconservatives.  “Either it is our way or it is the highway”, spout Congress members like Ted Cruz.  Hmmm.

Closing the government and potentially allowing the government to default on its debt are before us today.  Both actions are entirely irrational.  Neither can be justified by the issues alleged at stake.  They are equivalent to a child destroying the community sand box because he/she does not like the color of the sweater another child is wearing.

While the damage to US competitiveness will be significant if the shutdown and debt default are allowed to continue, this type of politicking is only the tip of the ice berg that is coming.

Entitlements and ACA are just two issue.  What about those Congress members who feel strongly about the Ten Commandments, abortion, women’s rights, guns, immigration, or taxes?  What demands will those who are either for or against these issue put forth, and what serious matters of government will they try to hold hostage?  Instead of voting, it could be hostage taking.

Hmmm.  I think we will miss the good old days of ear marks and limited campaign spending.

Innocent Victims

September 30, 2013

Medical ethics teaches “do no harm”.  It turns out this is superior advice in a wide range of other matters.  None could be more apropos than the current Washington DC “death watch” over the budget and the debt limit.  When in doubt about the next step, take one that “does no harm”.  I wonder why this has not occurred to more legislators?

Shutting down the government does a lot more than just make headlines.  It certainly will inconvenience a lot of Americans who wished to visit government parks and museums.  Tea Party zealots, of course, glow with pride at this opportunity to get a message to Americans.  But what message?

The hostage ransom is a delay in implementing the Affordable Care Act.  This will leave thousands of Americans denied healthcare because of pre-existing conditions.  It will leave millions more without insurance and one illness away from bankruptcy.  Doesn’t sound like “do no harm” to me.

Stepping back for a moment.  The fundamental issue seems to be a minority with exceedingly strong beliefs is stymied and cannot get its way.  This group opposes Medicare, Medicaid, social safety net programs, and most other government regulations.  They do not represent enough Americans to elect a majority or to elect the President.  Their share of elected positions, however, is enough to gum up the Congressional process.

The proper place and time for a budget debate is on the floors of Congress.  If agreement cannot be struck (because opposing views are held just as strongly), then a “clean” Continuing Resolution (CR) does little or no harm.  The opposing minority has a chance every two years to elect Representatives and one third of the Senate.  If their idea is a winning one, time will cure all ailments.

Each of these radical acting conservatives (and the closet Republican moderates who are shamefully keeping their mouths shut) will also hurt a more concentrated group of Americans.  As each government department closes or furloughs its “non-essential” workers, the burden of the Tea Party tactics will hit their pocketbooks.  This will bring real harm.

Pundits might say, “don’t worry”, Congress can pass a resolution to grant back pay once this Congressional impasse is broken.  Hmmm.

The Tea Party tactics are not only hurtful, they are dim.

With respect to healthcare, the uninsured frequent the emergency room.  These costs are subsequently spread over all other hospital and doctor fees.  Guess who pays?

But even wilder is the idea that we shut down the government, send home the workers without pay, and then later agree to pay them for no work.

Hmmm.  I am not sure the Tea Party will ever be ready for prime time.


Filling Potholes

September 19, 2013

Elected officials’ first and foremost responsibility is to ensure government provides basic services.  In order to accomplish this, a government must collect taxes and fund a staff of departments which provide, at a minimum, a list of basic services.  At State and local levels we have seen a wide distribution of government leaders.

Many were more interested in enriching themselves.  Given enough time these political characters were either thrown out of office or sent to jail.  Every so often, however, some political leaders filled their pockets to overflow and still  remained in high esteem with voters.  Why?

These political leaders knew that the trash must be picked up and the pot holes must be filled.

Congress is facing a very tough hurdle in the coming weeks.  A minority of Republican Congress members are committed to using the prospect of government paralysis to get there way.   They see either not passing any spending authority or allowing a default on the national debt to occur.  The consequences of both are serious but the debt default situation is both unnecessary and potentially as economically serious than the Banking collapse in 2008.

One would think there must be some important issues that would cause the House majority to head off on this path.  What could it be?

The GOP claims the combined budget and debt crunch as the last and best method they see to stop the Affordable Care Act.  The last time the GOP tried to pull this shit dwon stunt the reason was the size of the deficit and the debt.  The GOP implied we would have worthless currency soon and out children would be saddled with trillions in debt our generation spent but did not pay for.

Since 2010 when the Tea Party came out with guns blazing, the economy has slowly gotten stronger.  In comparison to the rest of the world, the US today has an enviable position.  Hmmm.  Does that mean the deficit and debt are no longer important?

To the contrary, the deficit actually represents a much more serious problem.  Our elected officials have forgotten that there job is to govern.  Consequently, Congress is unable to decide any real fixes to the budget.

Our Congress members will agree to cuts… as long as they do not effect their districts or their special interest supporters.  This leads to life being much the same as it has been.

GOP claims that the Affordable Care Act is a poster child for what’s wrong with government is very difficult to understand.  It is law and it has been law since 2009.  More to the point, the 2012 Presidential election featured two candidates.  One said his first act as President would be to repeal ACA.  The other, President Obama, said he would see ACA became a necessary improvement to US health care delivery system.  President Obama won handily.  So why the October show down?

It appears that a significant number of Republicans are not interested in “filling pot holes”.  For sure they do not like certain feature of ACA, like taxes and regulations on small businesses.  Yet the GOP has proposed no alternatives on raising the needed revenue.

One is left unmistakably with the impression that US healthcare is the best in the world already, so why do anything?  To bad reality say otherwise.

There has been more than enough time for Republicans to offer alternative to provisions to fix ACA, and just as much time to offer balanced deficit reduction (cuts and new taxes).  That’s the process of governing.  Hmmm.

So, the message is watch out for the holes in the road.  Plan on them being there a long time.

The Way Of The Dodo?

May 29, 2013

It is just to difficult to pass over today’s announcement that US Representative Michelle Bachmann will not stand for reelection in 2014.  For someone who has made such a slash in political theater,especially on Fox News, it just seems strange that Saturday Night Live will be without a soft target to ridicule.  I wonder why she is retiring?

There are reports that she has assessed her reelection chances and come up wanting.  Other reports say that any chance of winning would require huge gobs of money and those prospects are slim.  Still others hint that an IRS investigation into possibly misspent campaign funds may be the reason.  Time will tell.

I would offer an alternative idea that her time came and has passed.  Bachmann became a household name just about the time the Tea Party was blossoming.  She quickly co-mingled and for a while became a Tea Party-Right Wing poster child.  Her advocacy for pro-life and anti-taxes endeared her to many conservative voters.  She became intoxicated with the public spotlight, in many cases got ahead of her facts, and tried to obtain the GOP 2012 Presidential nomination.  She laid it all out and the public said hmmm.

Bachmann is now seen as a past fad.  She has been replaced with much more articulate (although not necessarily more helpful) spokespersons.  While there are no rules she must retire, Ms Bachmann must have listened to political advisers who warned her that her political career was like the Dodo…  dead.

How Quickly We Forget

May 15, 2013


The current IRS scandal had excited a lot of Americans.  The IRS probably evokes more of the negative “big government” feeling than any other Federal Agency.  So revelations that certain IRS agents targeted right wing conservative groups seeking 501(c)(3) status only serves to reinforce their distrust.

Time may reveal that these investigations were prompted by political motives, that is the agents or their superiors were against the activities of these conservative groups.  Or it may turn out that the motivation stemmed from an honest suspicion that many groups seeking 501(c)(3) status were actually not qualified and would use their tax advantaged status to promote political goals.  Congress writes the tax code but the IRS develops rules to interpret the laws.  It will be hard to ultimately determine the motive.

What is not hard to recognize is that US custom is to treat everyone the same way unless there is probable cause.  Having a name Tea Party this or that, or Patriot this or that are not a suitable probable cause.

But over and above all this is the question “why do we have 501(c)(3) status in the first place”?  With the country’s huge deficits and the government having to reduce spending (as it should), why do we continue to look the other way when it comes to the tax code “spending” money with tax exemptions, reductions, and credits?

The idea that corporations can donate large amounts of money (for any purpose) and do so anonymously seems ridiculous, both to the share holder and to the public.

There is an important “tone at the top” message that needs communication within the IRS.  All tax payers must be treated the same.

There is also a wonderful opportunity for Congress to change the tax code even if only for this one paragraph.