Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Still Dealing With The Rising Cost Of Health Care

The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that the average annual premium for family coverage through an employer rose to $15,073 in 2011.  That is an increase of 9% over the previous year. 
This announcement could not come at a worse time for the economy and for an administration struggling to get people back to work.  The increase in health insurance premiums would most certainly offset any savings employers may find in the tax cuts proposed in the President’s jobs plan.  Small businesses are less likely to hire when faced with an increase in their group health insurance premiums.  Many will be forced to lay off workers or discontinue providing coverage altogether.
Health insurance providers argue that they are increasing rates to offset the increased cost brought about by the President’s Affordable Health Care Act.  They argue that the requirement that they provide coverage for people with pre-existing conditions and allow parents to insure their children until the age of 26 drives up claims and costs.  They also say that they are raising rates in anticipation of a provision that will take effect in 2014 requiring insurance companies to justify rate increase in excess of 10%.
The administration counter argument is weak. They say that once all the provisions of the bill take effect in 2014 the net result will be more choices, more competition and lower rates.
Here is the truth.
The Affordable Care Act is a watered down law that is a boondoggle for the insurance industry.  The cost containment provisions were weakened to such an extent to insure the bill’s passage that they lack the clout necessary to hold rates in check.  While requiring companies to insure those with pre-existing conditions, allowing parents to keep kids on their policies until 26 and making the coverage portable are good things for the public; the cost controls are too weak to hold down the rate increases that the companies are sure to impose to offset the increase in risk.  The mandate provision that conservatives hate funnels over 40 million new customers into the insurance company pipeline.  Republicans say this mandate is unconstitutional.  But it is necessary if you want to insure everyone through the existing free enterprise system.  The current system cannot work effectively as long as you allow people to receive medical treatment without paying for it.  The cost of their care gets passed on to those who DO pay for their treatment in the form of increased premiums.  Everyone who benefits must pay into the system for the current system to work effectively; hence the mandate. The problem is when you mandate coverage without putting in stringent price controls you open the barn door for the insurance industry to charge whatever they choose.
The assertions that that the new law will allow companies to market across state lines thereby increasing competition and lowering premiums is bogus.  Insurance companies can already market across state lines.  All they need to do is file the appropriate paperwork and abide by the individual state laws.  They choose not to because many feel that the laws in certain states are too restrictive in terms of price control.  The new law does nothing to change that. 
And the anti-trust exemption that the insurance industry enjoys (only the insurance industry and Major League Baseball enjoy this benefit) guarantees that price fixing and collusion within the industry will continue to assure massive profits.  The bill does nothing to address that either.
The insurance industry has made billions upon billions in profits over the past decades.  They are increasing their rates simply because they can.  Their duty is to their stockholders not the general public.  That is the way the system works.  And nothing in the bill changes that.
What we need is a complete overhaul in the way medical coverage is distributed and paid for in this country.  Tweaking a system that has run out of control is not the answer. 
We have had the personal experience of dealing with the private insurance industry for our own medical needs.  We have also dealt with Medicare and Medicaid in handling the medical needs of our parents.  There is no contest.  Hands down Medicare for everyone is the better way to go.
But that is not going to happen in this, the only industrialized country on the planet to disdain the thought of government health care for everyone.  This phenomenon is even more perplexing when you realize that all of us go on government provided health care once we reach retirement.  And any politician who so much as whispers the thought of “reforming” Medicare or Medicaid does so at the risk of serious political and physical harm.
People will complain about the skyrocketing cost of their health care and blame it on Obama’s health care plan. They forget that our health care costs were going through the roof long before Obama came on the scene. 
Credit the President for at least trying to fix the problem.  Obamacare just didn’t go far enough.  And until we make the tough choice to completely overhaul the way we receive healthcare, the cost will continue to rise.           
      

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Crazy Talk Does Not Work

The Republican Party is struggling to find its identity.  Long known as the party of the conservative movement it is now just as likely to be viewed as the home of anti-government radicals and fanatics.  The Tea Party movement has so successfully inserted itself into the very fabric of the party that there are now two Republican Parties:  the “Tea Party Republicans” on the far right and the “Traditional Republicans” of the more moderate persuasion.  .
The Tea Partiers have seized the upper hand and used their influence over party leadership to bring the government to a halt. They have vaulted their political candidates into the spotlight.  Palin, Bachman and now Perry all share their radical ideals and their penchant for the inflammatory.   In the process they have brought civil discourse within our politics to a new low.  This degradation in the manner in which we treat each other was never more evident than in the ongoing Republican debates.  Consider the following:
Rick Perry is roundly cheered by a raucous crowd when the moderator notes that Perry signed off on 234 executions during his ten years as governor of Texas.  The blood lust for the killing of 234 human beings is chilling…and telling.
Ron Paul was commenting about his aversion to government health care.  Asked if he would allow a coma patient who did not have insurance to die rather than treat him Paul said: “we all take risks when we make decisions and this idea that we have to take care of everyone…”  He was cut off by the cheering crowd; one of whom shouted “let him die” to even more applause.
A US marine on duty in Afghanistan, called in via video conference.  He asked one of the panelists: “if elected president what steps do you intend to take to undo all the good done by the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell…I ask this as a gay Marne serving in the military.”  The Marine was booed by the audience.
We live in a time when voicing a difference of opinion brings you ridicule and hate.  Civil discourse has been replaced by hate speech and fear mongering.  When was the last time you heard a member of Congress shout “you lie” at the President of the United States as he delivers his State of the Union address?  It is no longer sufficient to say “I disagree”.  “I disagree you stupid *%#!” is now the norm.
In the long run “crazy” doesn’t work.  “Crazy” may fire up a crowd; it may even win you a Republican nomination.  But it won’t rally a country and it won’t win a general election.
FOXNEWS mogul Roger Ailes, arguably the most powerful person in the Republican Party, realized the dangers of crazy talk and altered the course of his operation.  Glenn Beck was fired and Ailes ordered his talking heads to “dial it down”…”it” being the crazy talk and inflammatory rhetoric that had permeated his news organization.  The declining ratings told Ailes all he needed to know…crazy does not work in the long run…and he acted accordingly.
We need to return to a time when competing ideas and thoughtful commentary propelled our nation forward.   If Republicans want their conservative message to be taken seriously then they need to return to the thoughtful dialogue and rational principles that once governed their party.  Crazy talk doesn’t work in the long run.  You need only look at the state of our ineffective government and our stalled economy for proof.                
                

Monday, September 26, 2011

Perry's Stock Continues To Fall

If the recent Republican debates have taught us one thing it is this…Rick Perry should stay very far away from public debates.
On the heels of what was probably his worst debate performance yet, the Texas governor’s campaign seems on the verge of falling off the proverbial cliff.  Conservative pundits spent the weekend raking Perry over the coals for his abysmal performance.  FOX NEWS pundit, Britt Hume summed it up best saying: “he (Perry) threw up all over himself.” 
Perry’s campaign, which rocketed to the lead just a few short weeks ago, seems to be flaming out.  Not only did Perry choke in the debate, appearing stiff and unsure while making several comments sure to alienate his base; he lost the Florida Straw Poll as well.  Pizza magnate Herman Cain was the winner easily outdistancing the trailing Perry and Romney.
Michelle Bachman was the only other candidate to make news…and not in a good way.  Bachman garnered a pathetic 1.5% of the Florida Straw vote and continued her gravitational pull toward the bottom.   Bachman’s stock has been in steep decline since Perry entered the race.  This recent effort all but signals the end to her candidacy.
In the end Romney was the last man standing.  Unless you take Cain’s candidacy seriously, which very few do, Romney continues to be the best bet to win the nomination.  He was strong, well spoken and by far the most Presidential candidate in the field.  While the other candidates gang up on Perry, Romney can remain above the fray as the only adult in the room.
Perry is not out of it yet, but it is becoming more and more apparent that he is just another in a long list of Republican candidates who come on to the scene like a house on fire only to flame out when the klieg lights come on.  Like Trump and Bachman before him, Perry’s bombastic personality could only go so far in concealing his lack of substance.
It’s Romney versus the field.  The Republican Party is not crazy about Romney but they like the field even less.  Unless someone like Chris Christy or Jeb Bush changes their, mind Republicans will have to settle for Romney.            

Friday, September 23, 2011

Charles Krauthammer Makes Us Laugh Out Loud

We didn’t know that distinguished New York Times columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote satire.  But in today’s edition was a piece attributed to him that made us laugh out loud.
Apparently Mr. Krauthammer has his panties in a twist over the President’s jobs plan and the manner in which he intends to pay for it.  He is terribly upset that the President proposes to use the government to create jobs while asking the wealthiest citizens to help defray the cost.  In his column Krauthammer calls Obama a fraud saying: “The authentic Obama is a leveler, a committed social democrat, a staunch believer in the redistributionist state, a tribune, above all of “fairness-understood as government –imposed and government-enforced equality.”
Duh!
Mr. Krauthammer states that the President has held these liberal beliefs all along; and the centrist Obama that we have witnessed since the election has been merely a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  He says the true Obama has been revealed…he is the one we witnessed on the campaign trail in 2008.
Duh!
Finally, Mr. Krauthammer accuses the President of “soaking” the rich.
That’s when we laughed out loud.
The President was elected in 2008 on the same principles that he has preached over the past two weeks.  They are the very same principles that won him the White House by 10 million votes over John McCain.  Even today the polls show that the country by a wide margin supports his vision of job creation and tax increases for the wealthy.
Unfortunately for the country, the President, once elected, lost his way.  Instead of fighting for the principles that got him elected he tried to compromise with Republicans that were only interested in seeing him defeated.  He caved on closing Gitmo and he continued the tenants of the Patriot Act.  He continued the Bush drawdown in Iraq and added more troops in Afghanistan.  He backed off on immigration reform, tighter bank controls and consumer protection laws and he folded on cap and trade and higher EPA standards.  He passed a historic health care reform bill.  But in acquiescing to Republicans he gave up on ‘Medicare for All” and “single payer health care” well before the debate had even begun. He rescued the auto makers which saved over 3 million jobs and kept another US industry from fading into history. He passed the Recovery Act, which every economist says saved 2 million jobs while pulling the country back from another Great Depression.  Even as they criticized the plan as “more socialism” and “big government run amuck” Republicans were applying for billions in stimulus funds for their home districts. 
But the economy was in worse shape than imagined and the Recovery Act wasn’t big enough to provide the jump start needed to get it going again.  Lost in all of this was the one thing people wanted more than anything else…jobs, jobs, jobs.
So when the mid-term elections rolled around the voters looked at Obama and saw not the difference maker that they were promised, but another politician like all the rest.  So they voted for “change” again, and gave the President a self described shellacking.
Perhaps not learning his lesson he continued to negotiate with Republicans.  He sought compromise while Republicans were only interested in his defeat.
Then came the debate on the debt ceiling…the straw that broke the camel’s back and made clear to the public, and finally to this President, what the Republicans were all about. 
Traditional Republicans were not able to control Tea Party members who preferred default over helping the President.   Bowing to the Tea Party, Cantor and Boehner not only walked away from a “Grand Bargain” that would have righted the country’s path; they literally walked out on the President, demonstrating their lack of respect for the office and the man.  The crisis was averted but the country and the President learned a valuable lesson.
For the past three years the President has put his personal politics aside in an effort to reach a compromise with Republicans.  He has been dismissed and shown a lack of respect at every turn.  So now he has returned to the stump and proposed the kinds of programs that he should have been proposing three years ago.  He has called the Republicans out by name and challenged them to offer their own solutions rather than just say “no” to his.  The voters have noticed; and the polls say they approve.
Messer’s Krauthammer, Boehner and McConnell are incensed.  They have accused the President of partisan politics.  Apparently they can dish it out but they can’t take it.
As for Mr. Krauthammer’s accusation that the President is “soaking “the rich…if asking the wealthy to increase their tax burden from 35% to 39% is more of a “soaking” burden than asking the unemployed, elderly, retired, infirmed, indigent, disabled, first responders, police, government workers, teachers, students and disabled veterans to slash their benefits, pensions and retirement funds…then so be it.
The President has returned to his “social democrat “ways.  Mr. Krauthammer says that ultimately the people will decide if he has taken the right course.  Mr. Krauthammer says that for him that day cannot come soon enough.
We could not agree more!                   

   

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Death Penalty Blurs Value Of Life

Our country executed two more death row inmates yesterday.  There may very well have been more; but the press only reported on the two.
The first was an inmate from Texas who was convicted of a hate crime; that having chained the victim to the bumper of his truck he then dragged him through the streets of town until dead.  The second was a Georgia inmate who was convicted of shooting an off-duty police officer during the commission of another crime.  One white, one black; both receiving our society’s ultimate justice for their crimes. 
Texas Governor Rick Perry has presided over 235 executions during his ten years as governor.  When asked during a recent debate about the seemingly large number of executions in his state he very calmly and thoughtfully said: (paraphrasing) “if you kill someone in Texas you will receive the ultimate justice.”  The partisan crowd in attendance cheered and applauded his response.
We do not condone the use of the death penalty in our justice system.  In a nation that otherwise places the highest value on one human life we do not understand how it can arbitrarily take the life of another…no matter the crime. 
Consider this:  our justice system is fraught with cases every day where a prosecutor arbitrarily withdraws the death penalty in exchange for a confession.  Some of the most brutal killers ever put on the face of this earth are allowed to live in order to defer the cost of a lengthy trail.  How do we then decide with any sense of moral certainty who lives and who dies? 
It doesn’t make any sense.  We hold life so dear that our physicians go to extraordinary lengths to save the life of terminal patients knowing if that the patient survives the surgery they will live their final hours in pain and suffering or in a comatose state.  We prosecute persons who would assist others intent on ending their own lives rather than live in such a depleted condition.  Our first responders put their lives on the line every day, risking the lives of many to save just one.   And let us not forget the men and women of the military who will lay down their life for one of their brothers or sisters in arms; including putting their life at risk to retrieve the remains of a fallen comrade.  Many believe that a human being exits at the time of conception and to abort that embryonic cell is murder.
So if we hold one life so dear how do we justify the taking of another through the courts?  
Do we allow the death penalty to occur as a form of deterrent against others who may contemplate similar crimes?  If so we need to find another solution.  The death penalty has been in place for decades yet 16,000 people are murdered in this country every year.  Does it bring closure to the families of the victims?  Doubtful, because their loved ones will forever be missed.  Perhaps it’s just vengeance…an eye for an eye. 
Whatever the reason, it just seems strange to us that a country that places such a high value on a single life can maintain a system of justice where that same life can be used as a bargaining chip in order to procure a confession.  But even more shocking, is that a society that places such a high value on one life would dare to risk the possibility of wrongly extinguishing the life of an innocent person.
Is the death penalty the right punishment for those who have taken another life?  We don’t think so; but many others have argued convincingly in opposition to our opinion.
We do know this…the execution of 235 lives is never cause for celebration.
           
  

   

Far Right Slaps Down Boehner And Republican Leadership

The partisan gridlock continued yesterday as the House failed to pass a continuing resolution to avoid a government shutdown next week.  The resolution was defeated 195-230 as 48 Republicans joined Democrats in voting down the resolution.  The Democrats opposed the measure because Republicans had attached offsetting cuts in FEMA disaster relief to the CR.  The 48 Republicans voted “No” believing that the cuts were not drastic enough.  The loss was an embarrassing slap in the face to Republican leadership.  Once again the far right members of the Republican caucus defied the wishes of Speaker Boehner and the party leadership.  
You can now add disaster victims to the long list of people who’s funding/benefits the Republicans would rather cut than increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires.  They join welfare recipients, the unemployed, the elderly, the retired, the infirmed, women’s health care providers, government employees, teachers, policemen, fire fighters, students, NYC first responders and disabled veterans.     
  

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Creepy Relationship Between Republicans and "Job Creators"

What is the deal between Republicans and the “job creators”?  Why do they treat “job creators” like some type of fragile, exotic plant requiring just the right amount of water, just the right amount of sun and just the right soil content…or they will die.  It’s creepy!   We can’t impose emission standards on “job creators.”  We don’t dare impose safety standards on” job creators”.  And OMG!  We can’t possibly raise taxes on “job creators”…they will die!   Republicans would have us believe that “job creators” are sacrosanct and that there is a direct correlation between government intervention and the number of jobs that the job creators create.
Bull!
Let’s examine the largest plank in the Republican platform…taxes.  Republicans will tell you that if you increase taxes you hurt the “job creators” and impede their ability to create jobs.  That is simply not true.
Want proof?  We Googled “tax rates job growth” and found a detailed graph provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics and Tax Policy Center.  This is a non-partisan organization that simply compiled the tax rate/job growth statistics since 1950.  No BS…just facts.
In the past 60 years job growth has been greater in years where the top income tax rate was much higher than it is now.  For instance, in years where the marginal rate was more than 90% the average annual growth in total payroll was 2%.  In years when the top marginal rate was 35% or less…which it is now…employment grew an average of just 0.4%.  You can pick any year, any threshold.  When the marginal rate was 50% or above annual employment averaged 2.3%.  When the rate was under 50% the growth was half that.
There is absolutely no historical data that supports the belief that higher taxes impede job creation.
The President has said he intends to roll back the Bush tax cuts for couples making over $250,000 to pay for increased investment in education and infrastructure.  Why not?  The Bush tax cuts that were supposed to spur job growth have been in place for 12 years and unemployment is still at 9.1%.  So to Republicans who criticize the tax increase as hurting job growth we ask…where are the jobs?
Lower tax rates do not generate jobs.  Demand generates jobs.  Even in this economy, if you develop a purple widget that everybody wants,  people with money will line up around the block to buy it. (See: Jobs, Steve/Apple/I Pad)  Businesses are not hiring for two reasons: 1.) there is no demand and 2.) on the whole the corporate world is doing just fine as is.  Wall Street earnings have increased 31% since Obama took office.  The business community is holding over $2 trillion in cash waiting for demand for their products.  There is no demand because there are no jobs through which people can earn the money to buy the products.  It is a vicious circle; but it is a circle in which tax rates play no part.
The “job creators” are sitting on their hands and their wallets.  There fragile mental state will not allow them to part with their massive earnings in this turbulent economy unless there is demand for their products and services.  So if the private sector won’t act then the only way to spur the economy is through government intervention.  Repairing our infrastructure, remodeling our schools and investing in research and development may not fit the Republican definition of a “job creator”; but if the private sector won’t act then the government must.  After all Republicans always say that the government should only do the things that the private sector can’t/won’t do.  So…
Pampering the hypersensitive “job creators” has not worked.  They have not created jobs.  Blaming their lack of entrepreneurial spirit on tax rates is simply false political posturing.
             

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Obama In Full Campaign Mode

The President unveiled his deficit reduction plan yesterday, and in the process removed any doubt that he is in full campaign mode.  Coming on the heels of his combative” jobs plan” address to Congress, the President’s Rose Garden “deficit reduction” speech was clearly designed to distinguish his economic and political agenda from that of his conservative opponents. 
The President went right at the Republicans, calling for the closing of corporate tax loopholes, elimination of the Bush tax cuts, and increasing taxes on the country’s most affluent.  To bring home the point he declared that he would veto any bill that does not include increases in revenues; a challenge certain to incense conservatives.
Democrats, desperately seeking the Obama that they elected in 2008, praised the President’s bold plan and strength of conviction.   For the first time in his Presidency Obama started a negotiation from the progressive left rather than the conservative right of center. 
Republicans responded as expected, dismissing the President’s plan a “campaign bumper sticker”.
The Republicans got it right.  This was not a presidential speech about governing and the economy; it was a campaign speech about candidate Obama’s political agenda. 
The President knows that neither his jobs plan nor his deficit reduction proposal have a snowballs chance in hell of passing through Congress.  Why would he believe anything else?  Republicans have consistently shown that they will go to any measure to defeat him…even to the point of taking the economy to default.  Any thought of their giving him a victory this close to the election is na├»ve and short sighted.
The President took off his Compromiser-in-Chief hat and donned his Campaigner-in-Chief helmet.  For the first time since his election he went on the offensive.  He backed the Republicans into a corner.  They can either accept his plan and join him in ownership of a bad economy… or they can fight him and watch as he takes to the stump and repeats over and over again: “Republicans would rather defeat me than help you.  They would rather watch you struggle to get by than increase taxes on millionaires and billionaires.”
It is unfortunate that the President didn’t have this fight three years ago when he had the chance to push his agenda through a Democratic controlled Congress.  It is even more depressing to think that we will have to wait fourteen months for the next election before anything substantive is done to fix the economy.     
    
    

Monday, September 19, 2011

Class Warfare

The President will unveil his plan to reduce the deficit in a Rose Garden address this morning.  According to “unnamed White House sources” the plan will cut $3 trillion from the deficit over the next decade.
There are numerous components to the plan; but the one that has Republicans all a twitter calls for the removal of tax loopholes and a separate, higher tax rate for those making over $1 million dollars. 
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan was quick to trot out the Republican talking points; accusing the President of dealing in “class warfare”.  “Class warfare may be good politics but it makes for bad economics.” said Ryan.
So if setting a separate tax rate for millionaires and billionaires is class warfare what does Congressman Ryan call holding unemployment benefits hostage in order to provide tax cuts for those same millionaires and billionaires?  What does he call requiring drug testing for those who apply for unemployment benefits or requiring poor people who don’t have a driver’s license or passport, to produce a photo I’d to vote.
Republicans are well schooled in the art of class warfare.  They are quick to defend the rights of the upper class who fill their political coffers with millions. 
The rest of us…not so much.
     

Friday, September 16, 2011

Speaker Boehner: Fix This Bridge

Speaker Boehner has unveiled his master plan to create jobs and grow the economy.  His plan has four simple components:  1) no new taxes 2) reform the tax code and 3) reduce regulations.  That’s it!    According to the Speaker if we implement these basic components the economy will grow and there will be jobs, jobs, jobs for everyone.

Oh… we forgot #4…just say “no” to anything proposed by the Obama administration…even if you supported it before.

The President will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio next Thursday where he will view the Brent Spence Bridge.  The Brent Spence spans the Ohio River and connects Speaker Boehner’s home state of Ohio with Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s home state of Kentucky.  The bridge sits on the I-75 corridor, the primary connecting route from Michigan to Florida and one of the busiest freight routes in North America.  An estimated 4% of the country’s gross domestic product crosses the bridge every year.  Because of its strategic location, the Brent Spence is enormously important to our national economy.

The problem is, the bridge is outdated and in dire need of repair.  The Brent Spence carries an average of 170,000 vehicles daily…more than double the 80,000 vehicles for which it was designed.  Congestion is a major issue. From 3 to 7 pm daily it turns into a parking lot.  Because the emergency shoulders were removed in 1986 to handle the growing traffic volume, even minor fender benders cause hours of delays.  These massive traffic delays have serious repercussions for local and national economies.

And then there is the safety issue.  There have been several fatalities on the bridge in recent years where stranded motorists are struck by passing vehicles.

The National Bridge Inventory has declared the Brent Spence functionally obsolete, having been built to federal standards that are no longer in use.  And there are 94 more obsolete, unsafe bridges in Speaker Boehner’s home state.

The Brent Spence needs to be replaced, and local leaders have worked for more than a decade to that end.  The problem is that the cost to replace the bridge and rework the 8 miles of connecting roads is $2.4 billion dollars.  That's "billion" with a "B".

We believe in the free enterprise system as much as Speaker Boehner; but you are not going to get private enterprise to pony up $2.4 billion to replace this bridge on spec.  It is going to take government investment to modernize this vital component of our economic system. 

This is the exactly the type of infrastructure repair that the President is proposing in his American Jobs Act; critical projects that will revive the economy and put thousands of people to work. 

It is also another Obama proposal that Speaker Boehner has dismissed off hand.

So we have to ask…

Speaker Boehner, under which section of your four point plan does the Brent Spence get fixed?      
           

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Failing Our Children

Here’s another story buried on page A-6 of the local papers.
The Associated Press reports that we are failing to educate our children.  According to the College Board, SAT reading scores for the high school class of 2011 were the lowest on record, and the combined reading and math scores fell to their lowest point since 1995.
According to the Programme for International Student Assessment, which ranks student proficiency for 70 participating countries, the US ranks 14th in reading, 17th in science and 25th in math?  The US received an overall ranking of “average”, far behind the education leaders of South Korea, Finland and Canada.
Republicans believe that the way to fix this problem is to abolish the Department of Education and pass the role of educating our children to the states. They say that this will reduce taxes and reduce the intrusion of government in people’s lives.
Here is what they won’t tell you.
Many of the states are already running huge deficits.  They rely on an infusion of federal dollars to maintain basic services and fund core projects.  Many rely on government funding just to stay afloat.  How will they cope if we add the monumental cost of educating our children to their financial burden?  Answer, the states will raise property taxes and sales taxes and any other revenue generating avenue they can find.  The idea that moving the responsibility for education to the states will save tax payers money is pure fiction.  And that doesn’t even touch the nightmare of 50 different standards of education across the country.
Our children are our future.  Investing in the education of our children is an investment in our way of life.  We need to increase that investment.  We need to find ways to make our education system more effective.  Passing the buck is not the answer.  “Average” is just not good enough.   


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More Americans Fall Into Poverty While Washington Does Nothing

Contrary to what you will read in today’s newspapers the big story of the day is not that a Republican won the New York 9th district for the first time in decades or that  61% of independents disapprove of the President’s handling of the economy or even that Jackie Kennedy thought that Martin Luther King a “phony “and a “drunk”.
The big story of the day is the Census Bureau announcement that another 2.6 million Americans slipped below the poverty level last year. 
-46.2 million Americans now live in poverty.
-15.1% of all Americans live in poverty.
-27% of all Black Americans live in poverty.
-26% of all Hispanic Americans live in poverty.
-12% of all Asian Americans live in poverty.
-9.9% of all White Americans live in poverty.
-22% of all American children live in poverty.
-The Brookings institute estimates that at the current rate the recession will have added nearly 10 million people to ranks of the poor by the middle of the decade.
-The 2010 median income for a male full- time worker is actually less than it was in 1973.
And the most shocking statistic of all is that the poverty line for a family of four is a ridiculous $22,314!  Imagine what the above statistics would look like if you doubled the poverty line to a still paltry $44,628.  What family of four can LIVE on $44,628 in today’s economy?
This is a problem that transcends politics.  The country’s economic decline began in 1978 when China opened its doors; and it has continued to spiral downward through the years of Reagan, Clinton, Bush and Obama.  Partisan politics and petty finger pointing have only served to exacerbate the problem.     
$46.2 million Americans live in poverty…and our government is too politically paralyzed to do anything about it.    

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

We Need To Re-Discover America

Studies show that our nation’s investment in infrastructure as a % of GDP has steadily declined since the Eisenhower years of the 1950’s.  We now rank 27th in the world…right behind Malaysia.
Studies also show that our nation’s investment in research and development as a % of GDP has steadily declined since the Kennedy years of the 1960’s. 
It was Eisenhower’s investment in building our national highways and bridges that spurred our economic growth, bolstered employment and opened new avenues for commerce.
It was Kennedy’s investment in science and research and development that lead us to the moon and opened the way for advancements in medicine and cures for debilitating disease.
It was this investment in our future coupled with an open immigration policy that encouraged the import of new ideas that led us to greatness.  So why are we now slashing the very things that made us great?
Our major competitors in China, India and Brazil are investing trillions into roads, bridges, airports and light rail.  How do we respond?  We respond by dismantling AMTRAK; selling bits and pieces to the highest bidder because we can no longer afford to maintain the railways.
Republicans believe that by simply cutting taxes, regulation and spending we will foster an atmosphere that will grow employment and stimulate the economy.  We disagree.
The Bush tax cuts have been in place for 12 years now.  So where are the jobs?  Where is the economic growth? 
The Republicans say that the President’s jobs bill is nothing more than another ineffective, big government stimulus plan that will fail just lake the last one did.  The fact is 60% of the President’s jobs bill is tax cuts.  Over 50% of the 2009 stimulus was tax cuts.  So if these plans did not and will not work…then tax cuts do NOT stimulate economic growth and increase jobs.  Republicans can’t have it both ways.
The fact is in order to stimulate the economy you need short term investment, reduced spending and long term debt reduction.  Tax cuts and bare bones spending cuts alone, as proven in the past, won’t get it done.
MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is featured in two commercials that we believe do a great job of cutting to the chase.
In the first commercial she is standing in front of what appears to be the Hoover Dam.  Looking into the camera she says: When our grandparents and great grandparents built this they knew that the benefits would fall to us.  They knew that we would benefit from this.  What have we done?
In the next commercial she is standing beneath a huge bridge which spans a large valley.  Looking up at the bridge she says: “You are never going to get a private company looking for a profit to build something like this on spec.  Companies can’t build things like this.  Cities can’t build things like this.  States can’t build things like this.  Only government can build something like this.”
Tonight Chris Mathews on MSNBC’s “Hardball” will list the location of 95 bridges in dire need of repair…all in Speaker Boehner’s state of Ohio.
Maddow has recommended compiling a list of all the unfunded construction projects applied for by Republicans under the President’s 2009 stimulus bill.  Yes, while Republicans were quick to criticize the bill they had no problem slurping from the trough.  So why not fund those projects?  After all Republicans applied for the money making the case that these projects would increase jobs and stimulate the economy. So…!
We cannot slash and cut our way out of this economic quagmire.  We need to invest and invent our way out.
Thomas Friedman said:  “Eisenhower used the cold war to rally the country to move forward and invest vast amounts on infrastructure, education, science and innovation…We didn’t get to where we are by accident.  We became the most prosperous country on the planet because we had a formula for success:  education, infrastructure, immigration, the right rules and government investment in research.  We have nothing to learn from China.  The history books we need to read are our own.  We need to re-discover our own country.”
Amen!  


        

Republican Candidates Feed Raucous Tea Party Crowd

The Republican candidates took to the stage last night for the CNN/Tea Party debate.  If the audience was looking was looking for fireworks the candidates did not disappoint.  There was lots of red meat for the Tea Party crowd to feast on while cold hard facts were in short supply. 
All sights were trained on the Tea party favorite and current front runner, Rick Perry.  Once again the debate focused on the back and forth between Perry and former Governor Mitt Romney.  In the end both Romney and Perry held their own with Romney holding serve among traditional conservatives and Perry whipping the Tea Part crowd into frenzy.
The most striking thing about the entire evening was the raucous applause that followed some of the most absurd statements.
Michelle Bachman was loudly cheered when she proudly proclaimed that she that she voted against raising the debt ceiling…even though it would have brought the country to default.
Rick Perry was cheered when he stuck to his comparison of social security to a Ponzi scheme and professed a desire to move control of social security to the states…states which are bankrupt and already struggling to administer Medicaid.
One of the loudest cheers erupted when Ron Paul opined that a hypothetical 30 year old coma patient without health insurance should sent home to die. Frightening!
In the end it was all about the bombastic Perry.  The crowd loved him.  His fellow candidates did all they could to knock him from his frontrunner perch.
From our prospective, Rick Perry’s performance was best summed up by widely acclaimed REPUBLICAN strategist Michel Murphy, who said: “Listening to Rick Perry try to put a complicated policy sentence together is like watching a chimp play with a locked suitcase.”
  


Sunday, September 11, 2011

9/11

As we watched the 9/11 memorials play out this morning we, like most Americans, were flooded with a host of emotions.  We remembered where we were when the planes struck the towers.  We remembered the confusion as news flooded in documenting the events in New York, at the Pentagon and in Shanksville.  We remembered the disbelief, the sadness, the anger.  But most of all we remembered the stark contrast between our lives immediately before and immediately after the attacks. 
It was just another day.  We watched Matt and Katie hosting the Today Show; conducting another mundane interview with a nameless new author.  We watched a much larger Al Roker, standing outside One Rockefeller Plaza, bantering with the crowd and sending us off to “see what’s happening in your neck of the woods.”  It was just another day like any other day.
And then the planes hit…and everything changed.
We lost our innocence that day…we lost our invincibility.    Perhaps for the first time since World War II Americans truly became part of the global community.  War was no longer a news clip that we watched from the comfort of our living room.  War was real.  We could feel it, taste it, and smell it.  War affected our lives as it never had before.
Our reaction was swift and it was bold.  We brought the full force and might of the US Military to bear against those that deemed to do us harm.  But in the process we altered the very essence of what it means to be an American. We made many, many costly mistakes along the way.  Bin Laden could not have imagined the extent to which his plan would alter our lives.  In the end Al Qaida was decimated and bin Laden was eliminated.  It is somehow fitting that bin Laden used a small group of committed zealots to end our former way of life;  and a small handful of committed patriots ended his.
Ten years have passed.  9/11 seems like a long time ago; but today it seems like yesterday.  It is hard to believe that this horrific event and the ten years that followed are but a blip in the course of history. 
We are still recovering.  The question is can we ever fully recover?  Can we ever become the country we use to be?
We believe that we are in many ways stronger because of 9/11.  More reflective, more connected and more aware of who we are.  But we have a long way to go.  We have to correct the missteps caused by our understandable, emotional reaction to the horrors of that day.  We have to restore our compassion and our respect for one another.  And we have to treat the rest of the world as our equals not as our enemies.  We have to adjust to a world that does not revolve around all things American.  Complacency is as much our enemy as any terrorist cell.
We can return to the days when America and her strong economy ruled the world.  The only thing stopping us…is us.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Finally!

Who are you…and what have you done with Barak Obama?
President Obama went to the Hill yesterday and in a speech long awaited by his supporters challenged Congress to “Pass this Jobs bill.”   The President outlined a major $447 billion dollar package of tax cuts and new government spending designed to revive the economy and put the country back to work.  Roughly 60% of the bill is tax cuts with the remaining 40% going toward infrastructure, school repair and new jobs initiatives for teachers and first responders.
Outlining the details of his “American Jobs Act” a feisty and combative Obama described a list of measures that had received bi-partisan support in the past.  Time after time, item by item, the President described a specific component of the plan, noted that both Democrats and Republicans had supported the idea, and then reiterated the urgency of swift action saying: “You should pass this plan right now…  “There should be nothing controversial about this piece of legislation.  Everything in here is the kind of proposal that’s been supported by Democrats and Republicans.” He went on to say: “The only question is whether, in the face of an ongoing national crisis, we can stop the political circus and actually do something to help the economy.”
In a nod toward the fiscal conservatives and deficit hawks in the room he noted that his plan would not increase the deficit; stating on several occasions: “Everything in this bill is paid for.”  He promised that in one week’s time he would provide the Super Committee with his plan for further deficit reduction.  In a bold move, guaranteed to raise concern on the part of his own party members, he said that long term deficit reduction must include modifications of Medicare and Medicaid if those programs are to remain viable in the future.
While the purpose of this speech was to address job growth and the economy, the President was not above doing a little campaigning at the expense of his detractors.
Addressing his desire to extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax holiday he jabbed at Republicans who had signed the Nordquist pledge to never increase taxes. “I know some of you have sworn an oath to never raise taxes on anyone for as long as you live. Now is not the time to carve out an exception and raise middle-class taxes; which is why you should pass this bill right away.” 
Referring to Republicans who preach that we should not increase taxes on business because they create jobs; the President proposed tax incentives and reduced payroll taxes for employers saying: “everyone agrees that job growth starts with small businesses so all of you that believe in tax cuts for “job creators” should pass this plan right now.”
When talking about infrastructure and repairing our roads and bridges he pointed specifically to a major bridge in desperate need of repair that connects Republican House Speaker Boehner’s Ohio with Republican Senate Minority Leader McConnell’s Kentucky.
As expected, reaction has been mixed.  Democrats applauded his tone but are concerned that he may give up entitlement reform while getting little in return.  Several Republicans have already discounted his remarks as mere campaign rhetoric and “more government spending”.  Economists however expressed surprise and approval at the size and scope of the package.  Many state that if past the plan would jump start the economy and lower the unemployment rate by a full percentage point…no small feat.
Now comes the hard part…getting his bill through Congress.    The President has laid out a strong bi-partisan plan.  Now he has to sell it.
The President said that he intended to “take this message to every corner of the country.”  It is no coincidence that he will start his road trip today in Richmond, Virginia.  Richmond is lies in the congressional district of Republican House Whip Eric Cantor, long one of Obama’s major critics.  Next Tuesday he will travel to Ohio; the home state of Republican House Speaker John Boehner.
The road ahead will not be easy.  Republicans have only two goals: shrink the size of government and defeat Obama in 2012.  It is hard to picture Cantor and Boehner giving the President a major victory right before the 2012 election.  After yesterday’s speech the President now has a response. If the Republican stonewalling and intransigence rears its ugly head the President will simply say:  “I gave them a comprehensive, bi-partisan plan.  My opponents have already agreed to the individual components.  But they won’t pass this bill because they would rather defeat me in 2012 than help you.”
We applaud the President.  The tone that he exhibited last night was long overdue.  While passage of his plan is far from certain…you cannot win a fight unless you are willing to fight back. 
The President finally threw a punch.  The fight has just begun.           

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Can Obama Restore Respect In The Presidency?

The President will address a joint session of Congress tonight.  His speech will begin at 7:00 eastern; which is 4:00 on the west coast.  The reason for the early start…because an address by the President of the United States, the leader of the free world, addressing the critical job crises in our country is now less important than the start of the National Football League season.
The President’s speech tonight is not just about growing jobs in America…it is about restoring the respect of the office of the Presidency.
During the past three years of the Obama administration many have come to question the relevance of this President and his office in shaping our national policy. The President has seen his birthright questioned and his phone calls ignored.  His opponents have stonewalled most of his legislative agenda.  They have viewed his willingness to compromise as a sign of weakness and used his pragmatism to back him into a corner.  Even when he has capitulated to their terms they have refused him a victory.  One by one they have swatted away his campaign promises as a mere annoyance.  His health care bill should have been the gold star accomplishment of his administration.  But in the end the legislation was so watered down his supporters were just as angry as his detractors.  For the first time in history the holder of his office has been denied the opportunity to address a joint session of Congress; asked to call again on another day.  They even had the audacity to shout out “you lie” in the midst of his State of the Union address.
We have said it before and we’ll say it again…the power brokers in Washington do not fear this President.  More importantly they do not respect him or the office he holds.
Tonight the President has the opportunity to right that wrong.  He will address the members of Congress and put forth his plans to create jobs and jump start the economy.  Once again history will be made as some of his detractors will not be in attendance; boycotting to show their distain and lack of respect.  We are hopeful that he will challenge those in attendance.  We are hopeful that he will offer a plan that is both big and bold in its scope and effective in its result.  We hope that he will back up his words with action; taking to the streets to sell his ideas.
The time for pragmatism is over.  Pragmatism has not gotten this President anywhere.  The country needs a leader; one who will fight for his beliefs not capitulate for the sake of nicety.  The country wants a President who is willing to throw a punch not just take one for the team.
After eight years of George W. Bush and now three years of Barak Obama the office of the President has somehow lost the respect that it once had.  Obama needs to restore that respect.  Not just for himself and his re-election, but for the country. 
The country and arguably the world need a strong President of the United States.  Can Barak Obama fill the role?  The country and the world will be watching.         

Will "Ponzi Scheme" Comment End Perry's Run?

Social Security is a Ponzi scheme…it is a lie.” With that one statement Governor Rick Perry may have torpedoed his run for the Presidency.
The Republican Party held a debate last night and it quickly became evident that absent the entrance of a Chris Christy or a Jeb Bush, the race for the Republican nomination is down to two people…Perry and Mitt Romney.    The back and forth between Governor Perry, the current frontrunner, and former Governor Mitt Romney, dominated the debate leaving the other candidates to assume the role of spectator.
Pundits wondered how Perry would fair when coming face to face with his fellow challengers.  Suffice to say he did not disappoint his base.  Perry was his bombastic self.  Rather than shy away from many of the controversial statements in his recently published book: “Fed Up”, he embraced them.  He questioned the science of global warming and reiterated his stance on immigration reform.  He stared down the moderator when defending the liberal use of the death penalty in his state saying: “if you commit a heinous crime in the state of Texas you will face the ultimate justice.”  He was forceful when on offense while stumbling a bit when on defense.  He will have the opportunity to clean that up in the future debates.
Romney was Presidential.  He clearly benefitted from his debate experience.  He willingly engaged Perry and was not afraid to defend his record on jobs and his Massachusetts version of Obamacare.
Michelle Bachman for all intents and purposes ended her campaign.  She was inconsequential during the debate and unable to recapture the support that she lost once Perry entered the race.
The rest of the candidates were little more than mannequins filling out the stage.
The story last night was Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.  Based on their performance Perry probably holds on to his frontrunner status.  The question is, is Perry just another flash in the pan like Trump or Palin or Bachmann; or is he in it for the long haul?  Slow and steady usually wins the race. 
Perry tossed out a lot of red meat to satisfy his base; but can he win a general election. We don’t think so.  We think “Social Security is a Ponzi scheme” will hang like an albatross around his neck.
        

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Must See TV For Polical Junkies

If you are a political junkie the next 48 hours will be politics on steroids.
We start off tonight with the Republican Presidential Candidate debate from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.  This evening’s festivities feature the unveiling of Republican front runner, Texas Governor Rick Perry.  This is Perry’s first debate of the race.  While he has soared to a 15 point lead over Romney there are many who question how he will hold up under the intense scrutiny of a national campaign.  Will Perry’s outrageous statements come back to haunt him?  Will he be able to defend some of his more controversial views expressed in his recently published book, “Fed Up”?  Will he come across as a savvy seasoned leader or another Texas governor prone to malapropos and bombast?
Perry’s primary opponent is former Massachusetts Governor, Mitt Romney.  Romney was the perfunctory nominee until Perry entered the race.  He had been content to lie in the shadows while Bachmann, Pawlenty, Gingrich and the like beat each other’s brains out.  However, once Perry declared Romney seemed to lose his footing.  He veered to the right in an effort to offset some of Perry’s Tea Party support.  This radical departure from the centrist flip-flopper that we have all come to know did not suit him.  Romney is ill-equipped to take on the mantle of attack dog that Perry relishes.  Which Romney will we see tonight?  Will go Romney go after Perry or will he return to the mundane manager of the middle?
On Thursday night we will be treated to the President’s highly publicized, overly hyped address to the joint session of Congress.  You may recall that the President wanted to give this address at the same time the aforementioned Republican debate was taking place.  Like everything else that this President asks of Congress, they said “No”.  So the President was forced to move his address to Thursday night AND time it so as not to conflict with the opening night telecast of the NFL’s regular season.  After all what is more important… the President outlining his plans to avoid a double dip recession and cure 9.1% unemployment or Packers/Saints?  Stupid question!  Will the President “Go Big” and offer a broad sweeping proposal to increase jobs by repairing our schools and modernizing our infrastructure?  Or will he nibble around the edges with small initiatives that have a better chance of passage by an uncooperative Congress?  Many feel that Obama’s chances for re-election hang in the balance. Given the recently released figures showing that the economy produced zero new jobs in August and the studies showing that for the first time ever 3 out of every 5 people living in poverty are no longer children or the elderly but working-age people ages 18-34…they may be right.
The next 48 hours promises to be must see TV.