Thursday, February 11, 2010

The current deficit

Real source of the current deficit

Yes, the economic recovery plan is currently adding to the US debt. It accounts for approximately 7% of the deficit. The remaining 93% was inherited, and economists recommend continuing deficit spending until the economy stabilizes. While this contradicts conservative talking points, the truth is the truth.

Obama's Q&A with House Republicans

So, President Obama attended the House GOP's annual retreat. It was an open forum for the conservatives to question and grill him - on any subject, with no vetting. Republicans could bring any prepared statement, and the President answered them completely impromptu. It's quite a remarkable change from the previous administration, and a must-see for anyone who thinks that there's little or no difference between politicians and parties.

Before the meeting, the Republicans were "itching to grill the President". Instead of allowing this opportunity to be constructive, they tried throwing out false statements and their standard, hollow talking points. While this technique works well for controlled interviews and conservative media "reporting", their approach cannot stand up to the actual truth. When confronted with such propaganda, the President calmly answered all of the questions they presented to them, but also corrected them when they made false or misleading statements.

The meeting was also recorded, and afterwards, the Republicans took a different tone:

Barack Obama, for an hour and a half, was able to refute every single Republican talking point used against him on the major issues of the day. In essence, it was almost like a debate where he was front and center for the majority of it. As one Republican said: “It was a mistake that we allowed the cameras to roll like that. We should not have done that.”

Sorry Republicans, one of the things of an open government that you'll have to deal with is that your constituents get to know what you're saying and how you're representing them. Clearly you don't perform well under such conditions.

But really, it couldn't have been THAT bad for Republicans to actually have to face the President in a Q&A session, could it? Well, let's put it this way. Fox News cut away from the broadcast 20 minutes before it ended. That's how bad it was looking for Republicans.


Obama's response to the group that is willing to sacrifice the good of America to achieve the political goal of making him look like a failure:

Good to know our President is an adult, even when faced with extreme political partisanship.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Oh, BillO

Compliments for having Jon Stewart on your show, and especially for getting out of character and allowing him to speak. It was going so well, and was an actual interview. But did you have to ruin the good karma by trying to slip in "your audience is primarily stoned slackers"? Had to ruin it by reverting back to your standard namecalling, huh?

Then Bill tried to defend fox as news. That's where his wheels really came off. I think it'll be a long time before he interviews anyone daring enough to bring up such obvious points again.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the "fair and balanced news", Sean Hannity, in an attempt to insult President Obama, factually declared that George W. Bush never played golf after he launched wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.

Corporatizing government

A small example of what privatization of government function would look like.

House on fire? Who cares if the whole town has paid taxes to cover the cost of a fire department - you're on the hook to pay all the expenses of the fire department. So while you're dealing with the loss of all your possessions, here's a 5-figure bill too. Including, of course, a tidy profit for the private company that's handing the act of billing you.

What do you call it when a city's streetlights go dark, police helicopters are for sale on the internet, firefighting jobs are cut, a vice team is disbanded, burglary investigators are stopped, and beat cops are fired?

Throw in city parks that are allowed to decay and fill with trash, rec centers shuttered leaving teens idle, bus routes cancelled, roads not maintained and closings at museums, pools and libraries.

What is it called? The path to conservative utopia. Death of public services, rely on the corporations to provide.

"After the 10-year frenzy of tax-cutting, middle-class families are earning less today, in real dollars, than they did in 1999. Add in skyrocketing health care costs and the plummeting value of people's homes, and we get the harsh reality of mushrooming poverty."

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Social Security

This was one growing problem that was completely ignored by the Bush Administration, except for one ill-fated and unwise attempt to privatize it.

Now that long-term fiscal responsibility has returned to the White House, it's time to do something to fix Social Security. The last time that Social Security was paying out more than it was taking in was the early 1980s, and the Republican solution was to cut benefits and raise taxes, so there could be a surplus of Social Security taxes that could fund other big government project.

It would have been a lot simpler to fix the system years ago, when we could have used Social Security's cash surpluses to buy securities other than US Treasury Bonds. Then we'd have the surplus of the past to cover current shortfalls, but that was squandered and now it's too late for that fix.

This time around we need to be smarter and more responsible. With the cost of living going up and the specter of real inflation, it sounds particularly unwise to slash benefits on seniors that already paid into the system. So perhaps it's finally time to eliminate the tax break for the wealthy. As salaries increase from around $90K/year, the percentage of Social Security withholding goes down. The very rich see a tiny fraction of the tax burden, when compared to the chunk taken out of middle
class paychecks. It's time to level the playing field, with everyone paying in.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Understanding conservative leadership

Senate GOP leader McConnell repeatedly urges new approach to fiscal discipline. Democrats bring it to a vote. McConnell votes against it.

"Who's buying" and "Who's reading" Palin's book are very different questions. The answer to the first question is: she is. With money donated to her campaign. Classy.

How do Republicans respond to President Obama using a Republican framework, just like they publicly pleaded for him to do? By turning around and degrading to namecalling. Apparently, Republicans have a hard time telling the difference between conservatism and Bolshevism.

So, why did Bush try terrorists as criminals? Because it is effective. Both Republicans and Democrats agreed.

Now Obama wants to continue the effective strategy. Now, all of a sudden, Republicans are opposing this and decrying it as wanting the terrorists to win, and other political rhetoric.

Democrats just want to have an effective fight against terrorism. Not exactly fiery political rhetoric, but and effective way to run a country.!-Treating-a-Terrorist-Like-a-Criminal-Actually-Works

A very productive Congress

Despite what political attacks say and mainstream media tries to sensationalize, the facts stand on their own merit. Congress has been very effective for the American people in the past year.

Don't just compare the 2009 Congress to the do-nothing Congress of 2001-2006, compare them to history.

This Democratic Congress is on a path to become one of the most productive since the Great Society 89th Congress in 1965-66, and Obama already has the most legislative success of any modern president -- and that includes Ronald Reagan and Lyndon Johnson. The deep dysfunction of our politics may have produced public disdain, but it has also delivered record accomplishment.

Economic planning - liberal vs conservative

In 1981, with bond prices at their highest rate ever, the US government had a historic opportunity. We could have bought bonds from economically stable governments across the world, and US taxpayers would have reaped the benefits for 30 years. Unfortunately for the citizens of the United States, the conservative movement that was in power declared that debt is good, and borrowed unprecedented amounts of money at historically high interest rates. The plan of increasing government spending and borrowing went on for 12 years until Democrats took back the White House, and the work began to repair America's long-term economy. It took 8 years of responsible spending and budgeting, but we went from the largest budget deficit in history to having a $200B surplus, and were on track to completely eliminate the national debt.

In 2001, all the long-term economic planning was laid to ruin as Bush II returned the US to a policy of increased spending and increased borrowing. However this time it was much worse - huge expenditures (2 wars, 2 tax cuts for big business and the wealthy) were left off the budget so future administrations would have to deal with them. Once again, we heard the conservative mantra that "debt doesn't matter", and 8 years later, we were saddled with a massive amount of structural debt that projected into the future, and crippled the US economy.

In 2009, hope returned for financial responsibility, and long-term fiscal planning that is beneficial to the US.

"[President Obama] outlines a plan to reduce the nation's debt by $1.2 trillion over the next 10 years, and to get annual deficits as a percent of the economy down from 10.6% today, to 3% by 2015."

In his first year, President Obama is taking a lot of heat for not being able to instantly solve an extremely serious problem that is literally 30 years in the making.
While a quick fix isn't possible, these facts represent real progress towards fixing a fundamental problem with the long-term US economy that began in 1981 and greatly accelerated in 2001.