Saturday, October 26, 2013

In The Land of Lincoln

Visiting my family for a few days in the suburbs of Chicago. The fall weather is fantastic and a welcome change from home. I never lived in this area because my folks moved here after I started college in the northeast. In any event, the political climate here is hyper liberal, not just among my family members, but among others with whom I've come into contact. They have a cartoonish view of where I come from and characterize my political perspective in hyperbole right out of the Alan Grayson school of bipartisanship.

I may no longer hold the classic liberal approach to improving the shortcomings of society, but I can hardly criticize my close family members for doing so. They actually walk the walk, emulating in many ways the path blazed by my mother whose activities I described briefly in my opening commentary of this blog. My cousins are lifelong educators in the Jewish community, and their commitment to those within and without the community is one I admire without reservation. My sister's family, too, embraces these notions, and she and her husband have passed this belief system to their three wonderful children. But behind it all, I perceive this insidious suggestion that the political approach I have adopted sits in opposition to improving the lives of our fellow citizens, wants to actually withhold improvement from them and reinstitute abhorrent legal (or extra-legal) mechanisms to insure their inequality.

I see this, too, in my observations of the behavior of mass media organs over the last several weeks as a government shutdown, debt ceiling increase and Obamacare have been endlessly analyzed. May I briefly recount my belief that the first two issues are only relevant because two of the three major branches of government (legislative and executive) have failed their constitutional duty of producing a budget and then passing appropriation bills in accordance with that budget. We can argue ad infinity about whether that budget should be balanced, embrace tax code reform, etc. But a budget is mandated constitutionally and it simply does not exist. The "continuing resolution - debt ceiling" games will continue until this is fundamentally addressed.

The media has done a masterful job of painting this merry go round as a devious, Tea Party-initiated strategy to extort concessions from the progressive government of America's first president of color. It is so absurd and offensive on so many levels that I refuse to distract myself by addressing them. My larger point, though, is that this Pravda-like uniformity has gained traction in the liberal community and has been accepted de facto because it is being disseminated by media organs widely seen by that community as "impartial". By opinion writers whose views are generally in sync with theirs.

One person with whom I have spoken here and who knew nothing of my political persuasions, but who saw me in the company of fellow travelers, informed me that it was widely known that the Confederate flag is proudly waved and displayed at Tea Party events. Another, who did know I lived in Texas, passed along a valuable insight that Ted Cruz was the most dangerous man in America
because he is a nihilist and is fighting to eliminate all government. Yet another told me their child was looking at colleges, was interested in the University of Texas, but was dissuaded from pursuing that
option because the student would be exposed to too many Texans. And, best of all, when I confessed to another for having voted for Ted Cruz, I was met by speechless incredulity.

Many leaders of the Democrat party - including the president himself - have been employing incredibly inflammatory language to describe their political opponents over the last few weeks. Perhaps (and hopefully) this has peaked over the last week as Alan Grayson sent out a fund raising letter with the letter "T" in Tea Party as a burning cross and then called MSNBC's Martin Bashir a "collaborator" for having the temerity to confront him; MSNBC's Chris Hayes showing a graphic of Cruz, Lee and Rubio on three "King" cards; and Dick Durban also sent out a fund raising letter claiming a Republican congressman had rudely insulted the President during a meeting (which Durban did not attend) which Jay Carney denied ever happened.

Part of the reason for this explosion of offensive rhetoric is that the media employs the language itself and refuses to condemn those on the left who also engage in it. The unfortunate consequence is that many who philosophically agree with progressivism are either unable or unwilling to sort through what is fact and what is fiction.

Sunday, October 20, 2013


Greetings! I have refrained from posting a comment over the last two weeks for a few reasons: I felt like rhetoric had become completely overheated and irrational; the mainstream media and even those who suggest they reflect the thinking of specific interest groups had gone completely off the rails; I had made my opinions known in the weeks leading up to the shutdown and debt ceiling increase, and saw little reason to keep repeating myself. Now that the shutdown is over and the debt ceiling increase passed, though, I'm feeling there's some oxygen in the atmosphere again.

I'd like to begin by posing a few questions:

1) Is a $17 trillion deficit a good or bad thing for this country?
2) Did Barack Obama really mean it when he voted against raising the debt ceiling and called George Bush's $8 trillion deficit "unpatriotic"?
3) Is it a good thing that we have approved a debt ceiling increase for nearly $1 trillion that will only take us through January 7?
4) Does anyone really believe anymore that a full implementation of Obamacare will not contribute to a further increase in the deficit?
5) Why do Democrats now want to insist that sequester cuts need to be eliminated when they claim to really want to do something about reducing the deficit?
6) Does anyone really think that Paul Ryan and Patty Murray will agree on anything that averts another shutdown? Or that really contributes to deficit reduction as opposed to decreases in the rise of spending?

I'm sorry, folks, but if you're okay with any of this, you are going to end up on the wrong side of history. In the five years of Obama's presidency, he has now doubled the deficit incurred by all the
presidents before him. You want to blame George Bush, blame George Bush. You want to complain
that the stimulus wasn't big enough and that's why the economy hasn't recovered sufficiently, blame the stimulus. You want to say that the economy has somehow been stifled by Republicans who only want to see Obama fail, please - blame Republicans. At this point, the whole back and forth is becoming completely irrelevant to me because there are several undeniable truths which neither side can avoid:

1) Pass a budget. Send it to conference committee. Continuing resolutions then become moot. Why can't we pass a budget during this administration?
2) Debt ceiling increases are only required because the Congress can't come to any reasonable agreement about how to reduce spending. Democrats want tax increases, don't want to reduce benefits to the aging or those in need and, ultimately, refuse to agree to restructuring the tax code to a "fair" or "flat" tax structure which requires contributions by all. Republicans (at least a few of them) will not endorse an increase in rates that penalizes capital gain investment or which unfairly targets
job creators for income redistribution purposes. You guys need to get real. We will turn out every and
any Republican who would endorse such changes. So,
3) Work on a longer term program which anticipates a gradual reduction in debt over a ten year term. Raise the age for eligibility for Social Security benefits. Reduce benefits for those whose retirement incomes eclipse certain benchmarks. It cracks me up when I hear liberals say that life expectancies when Social Security was created were such that some people were expected to collect and others would not. Are they suggesting that the plan was designed to in essence confiscate retirement set asides for a segment of the workforce??  In their world, I guess, those actuary predictions were acceptable and now we have to make adjustments because life expectancies have been extended. What about giving people some incentive to take on this planning for themselves? Why is this notion so abhorrent?
4) Large, extreme changes in the status quo will be required to rectify this situation. Liberals want to put this off, kick the can down the road (one of the most hateful colloquialisms ever coined), pass the problem along to someone else. People who associate themselves with "tea party" notions don't want to wait, aren't afraid of making tough choices, are prepared to sacrifice their benefits for the sake of their children's' and support without reserve the approach of people like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. There - I said it.

If both major political parties cannot figure out some reasonable method for passing a budget, resolving it in conference, gradually bringing some control to spending and the deficit, and getting some governors on entitlement programs (including the lunatic new "affordable" care act), the recent controversy over the shutdown and debt limit increase will seem tame in the waning years of Obama's second term.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Defender of Democracy

I had an interesting series of comments I was going to make today on Jay Z and finally undertake some social commentary that I initially suggested would become part of this blog. But then Tom Friedman struck again, threw me off track completely and forced me to respond to his never-ending hypocrisy.

In today's column entitled, "Our Democracy is At Stake", Friedman sums up his view that President Obama is "defending the health of our democracy" by resisting "the radical Tea Party minority". He goes on to describe how this group has created systemic advantages that has given it power, so much so that it threatens the very essence of majority rule. This cannot be the actual intellectual argument of one of the most powerful figures in American journalism, can it? Surely, even sitting in the offices of the Grey Lady in midtown or riding the Acela to dip into the capital, he is aware that the Tea Party is not a functioning third party movement with titular heads and a grass roots bureaucracy that works local precincts and gerrymanders districts in state legislatures?

Tom, this is an organic movement that doesn't "hate" government (much to the chagrin of Reed and Pelosi who want to believe that with every fiber in whatever organ actually pumps blood throughout their body), but does want to see the size of government reduced in a substantial way. It wants to see a major overhaul in the process that generates revenue for the government and it wants to see powers that over time have been assumed by recklessly growing government restored to state control and oversight. Finally, it loathes the accumulation of debts and deficits which has taken place under Republican and Democratic Administrations and wants to see a proactive plan which reasonably reduces spending and deficits over time. All of that will result in a real sense of economic progress and growth, will unleash a torrent of investment by private equity, repatriate equity that has been transferred overseas, and create millions of new jobs. I have no clue whether people who refer to themselves as Tea Party proponents would agree with this description, but that's how I see it.

Does any of this sound radical, anarchic, violent or a point of view embraced by people with bombs strapped to their chests? Of course, you know it does not, so what are Tom and Barack so afraid of?

This is the second time in my life time that I can recall an organic movement like this developing.The first was the movement to oppose the Vietnam War. This anti war movement had a similar relationship to the Democratic Party that the Tea Party now has with Republicans. In the case of each, it was understandable that internal factions would develop, that the establishment felt threatened and challenged, and unique voices arose within each which attracted people active in those movements. During the Vietnam War era, the establishment voices were Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, Sam Rayburn, even Chicago Mayor Richard Daley. The anti war voices were Gene McCarthy, George McGovern and, somewhat reluctantly, Robert Kennedy. Many of you might be completely unfamiliar with these people today. In the Tea Party era, the establishment figures are Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsay Graham and John Boehner. And the Tea Party voices are Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, Rand Paul and, somewhat reluctantly, Marco Rubio.

During the Vietnam War era, nobody called these anti war factions a danger to democracy or bomb throwers (unless they were ACTUAL bomb throwers like the Weather Underground or SDS). Nobody refused to negotiate with them. Nobody claimed the Democratic Party had been forced into radical positions because a fringe minority had begun exercising its constitutional rights. Nobody espoused the notion that President Johnson should hold firm because he was "defending the health of our democracy."

Tom Friedman should know better because he was present during this period. He defends Obama and Obamacare in an intellectually dishonest way and he intentionally mischaracterizes the Tea Party because it is the only way he can make such a ludicrous argument. He doesn't address what I have addressed because he knows millennials know little of this recent history and they fundamentally share his worldview. A President who passes a sweeping new entitlement solely on the support of a single political party, who issues waivers to the law extralegally, who exempts the very class of people who imposed this on the American public is hardly the right man to be called upon to defend the health of our democracy.