Hippy-hippy forward

2 08 2011

I will try to restrain myself from commenting any further on the debt-deficit-deal-debacle—but only after making the following two points:

1. Politics is not one thing. Yeah, Duh, I know, but in this debt bill there are two crucial pieces: the substance of the deal and the optics of the deal-making.

I am unenthusiastic about the substance, and am pleased that my representative (Yvette Clarke) and one senator (Kirsten Gillebrand) voted against it. I’m convinced by those who state that cutting spending during a time of low demand and high unemployment is a bad idea because such cuts will simply push the lows lower and highs higher.

Yes, I am effectively unemployed and no it’s not because this is hitting me, but I think a far bigger concern than the deficit is unemployment.

Get people to work, and those people start paying taxes on their paychecks. You may at some point need to raise taxes and/or cut spending to curb the deficit, but right now the emergency for tens of millions of people and their communities is unemployment.

Regardless of my unenthusiasm for the deal and small pleasure in Clarke’s and Gillibrand’s votes, I also understand why others voted for it. The debt ceiling had to be raised, most of the cuts are pushed back to 2013 and beyond, and, well, default would have been catastrophic.

Upshot: this is lousy on its merits, but it could have been worse.

On the optics, however, this is worse-er than merely lousy. Obama and the Dems could have dealt with the debt ceiling back when they were still in the majority, and, oh yeah, could have gotten in front of the budget issue in general.

Yes, Republicans were uncooperative before the 2010 elections and even less cooperative between the elections and the seating of the new Congress, but Obama, Reid, and Pelosi could have pushed forward a strong enough agenda that would have required the TeaPer-fueled GOP at least to have to fight for their “No!No!No!” platform. As it was, the Dems retreated before the wave rather than holding on and waiting for the wave itself to recede.

The Dems weakened themselves both in terms of not going hard at the Republicans and in not defending, much less advancing, their own vision for the country—probably because they seem to have forgotten that they ought even have a vision.

There are some good, tough Democrats out there, and yes, I’ll vote for Obama again in 2012, but beyond stopping the conservative onslaught, I have difficulty discerning what is the purpose of the Democratic Party.

Saying “it could be worse” is a truism, not a rallying cry.

2. The notion that Obama’s weakness in, ahem, “negotiating” this deal is due to the apathy of the left and/or the party base is false and infuriating because false.

I’ll give half-credit to those who note that people have to vote, and those who stayed home did failed in not taking advantage of one of few powers we have.

The other side of this, which goes unmentioned, is that it’s up to the candidates and the party to motivate them to vote, and the Dems did themselves no favors in the many months preceding the elections by not promoting what were, in fact, some solid accomplishments.

Again, telling us the other guy is worse ain’t enough.

What really flips my lid, however, are those who raise the FDR card: “The president told us to push him to do the right thing, and we didn’t do that.”


Axelrod and Plouffe and the president himself looking for some hippie to smack when they were, in fact, pushed—how does fit into the whole “keep me accountable” gig?

Mocking and deriding as hippies those left-critics who you invited to speak does at least indicate that the president retains the ability to go after his detractors. Too bad he only deploys this ability against his own side.

Finally, when is telling people to “make me” do the right thing a sign of strong leadership?

Lead from behind, wait-and-see, blah blah—yeah, I get it: the president isn’t a bully and for the most part he dispenses with the pulpit.

But you can be cool without losing strength:

No, the president can’t do what Malcolm did, for all kinds of reasons.

But there’s no reason he can’t also lift his hand and point to where he wants us to go.

You can’t always get what you want

28 07 2011

Completely irresponsible.

Yes, I disagree with the Republican agenda in general and the Tea Party agenda in particular. No surprise there.

And I’m not particularly happy with the Democrats, either—see my various Bam! posts—and their apparent inability even to generate an agenda (which is likely related to their lack of overall purpose).

But there are certain realities which are indifferent to ideologies and agendas, realities which include a high unemployment rate, divided government, and a wary global economy. There are, in other words, constraints on one’s aspirations, constraints which ought to discipline one’s behavior.

And yet they do not. Or, to put this another way, “limits” are apparently to be used only as an ideological battering ram by the TeaPers, rather than marking out the boundaries of a difficult debate.

Difficulty? What difficulty? We’ll simply wave our “don’t-tread-on-me-flag” and declare that our will is what is.

Why deal with reality when you are the Master of Your Own Universe?

It must be admitted, of course, that life in the real world is a little less heady, a little more complicated, and contains more than its share of frustrations. The notion of living within one’s means requires that we nail down just what we mean by “living with” and “one’s means”, and that the old Rolling Stone lyric is wrong only in that, honestly, you don’t always get even what you need.

We can change the world (the universe? not so much), but not by declaring the world changed. We have to do the work.

So, members of the House of Representatives, put down the flag and do the fucking work.

If you don’t like how and how much the government spends, you deal with that in the budget process. Want less spending? Then allocate fewer funds. Lower taxes? Ditto.

If, however, you want to increase defense spending, maintain agricultural price supports, protect subsidies for oil companies, fatten up the transportation/highway spending budget, fence out all illegal immigration, give money to survivors of tornadoes, hurricanes, drought, and fire, well, then, you have to make some decisions about those taxes.

You don’t get to say “no deficit spending” and then vote for deficit spending.

You want a balanced budget? Then produce a FUCKING BALANCED BUDGET.

And after you’ve produced an unbalanced budget, don’t pretend to have been victimized by your own actions.

Don’t say “hey, spend money on this,” and then refuse to hand over the credit card.

I’d prefer more spending: on multiple high-speed rail routes, a single-payer health plan, scientific and medical research, aggressive development of green technologies, elder care, day care, welfare, environmental protection, job (re)training, mixed- and low-income housing, education—the whole social welfarist shebang. Higher taxes, more and better services.

You want more, you have to pay more, full stop.

But maybe you don’t want to pay more. I think the anorectic approach to governance is wrong, but legitimate—or it is only legitimate if you actually lower your spending levels to match your revenues (and, frankly, if you don’t off-load any costs on to other entities). If you’re willing to tell people that they’ll receive precious little in return for the precious little they pay, then, okay.

But you don’t get say “I’ll cut—and there will be no blood.” And then double-back and proclaim your courage in dealing in “hard truths”.

Don’t paint yourself as a martyr—“I’m willing to risk my seat over this!”—for doing your fucking job, especially when you’re not doing your fucking job.

You took a job in government, a government which has obligations which predate your arrival and will incur obligations after you’re gone. Whether you like it or not, you’re responsible for those obligations.

So start acting like it.

Bam! Bam! Bam!

12 07 2011

Hellooooooo! Anyone hooooooomme? Democrats, are you theeeeere?

“We think public schools should go away,’’ says Teri Adams, the head of the Independence Hall Tea Party and a leading advocate — both in New Jersey and Pennsylvania — of passage of school voucher bills. The tea party operates in those two states and Delaware. They should “go away,” she says, because “they are hurting our children.’’ […] Adams says the current voucher program “discriminates” against wealthier students by providing public subsidies only to inner-city children in allegedly failing schools. Her group’s e-mails pushing vouchers caught the attention of James Kovalcin of South Brunswick, a retired public school teacher who asked Adams for clarification. She responded via email: “Our ultimate goal is to shut down public schools and have private schools only, eventually returning responsibility for payment to parents and private charities. It’s going to happen piecemeal and not overnight. It took us years to get into this mess and it’s going to take years to get out of it.” [emph. in original]

Can you do something with this? Or how about this—Orrin Hatch on taxation:

No matter what these Democrats tell you, the wealthy and middle class are already shouldering around 100 percent of the nation’s tax burden and 51 percent pay absolutely nothing in income taxes,” Hatch fumed before lambasting the entire system.

“Furthermore, because of this perverse distribution of federal income taxes, there is no way to fix our deficit hole and start paying down the debt by increasing taxes only on the so-called rich,” he said.

And here’s Senator Hatch again, on aid for workers displaced by trade deals (TAA):

I hope we can find a better path forward and the president will now act quickly and submit these agreements for congressional consideration, without including the TAA poison pill.

That’s right, help for workers thrown overboard on the rough seas of  ‘free’ trade is a poison pill.

You can’t do anything with that?

How about Eric Cantor’s proposal to make students begin paying interest as soon as they take out student loans? Republican resistance to corporate tax breaks?

Go after them, all of them. Go into their districts and raise hell, force them to deal with constituents who’d be burned by their policies, make them all answer for the worst of them.

Let the president play nice.

The party, on the other hand, needs to grow a pair of titanium tits and fight! fight! fight!


h/t Zaid Jilani, Think Progress; Michael McAuliff, HuffPo; Pat Garofalo, Think Progress/Doug Palmer and David Lawder, Reuters

Bam! Bam! Bam!

11 07 2011

Bad Republicans!

Putting together a video—hell, a series of videos—on Republican obstructionism and bad governance—shouldn’t be that difficult.

Consider Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who in October 2010 stated The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.

The single most important thing: not jobs, not education, not energy, not anything else which would affect the quality of life of Americans, but beating the other team.

Or remember when Vice President Dick Cheney said Reagan proved deficits don’t matter? Where was James DeMint then? Did Eric Cantor have any pushback to this deficit dovery? Paul Ryan? Where was Mr. Budget Butchery then?

This isn’t difficult, Democrats. Sure, the White House wants to take the high road, but what’s to prevent the Democratic National Committee from taking the low road and getting to Scotland afore ye?

And, really, shooting vids on Orrin Hatch stating poor people need to pay more taxes or some Republican expressing horror at the thought of forcing responsibility on financiers or removing tax loopholes for wealthy corporations and individuals is hardly distorting the record. If it’s the low road it’s because the GOP decided to dig a ditch and call it the expressway to electoral victory.

So start counting the bodies on the side of that road and charging the Republicans with hit-and-run.

This is outlaw ultimate fighting, and while the Republicans have been landing their blows low and aiming their kicks high, the Dems are still waiting for the ref to show up.

Fight! Fight! Fight!

Bam! Bam! Bam!

7 07 2011

Here’s an idea for the Dems:

Shoot a basic video with shots of Grover Norquist and sundry Republican leaders talking about the debt, deficit, unwillingness to consider tax hikes/closing tax loopholes, perhaps superimposed with quotes about how defaulting on the debt wouldn’t be a big deal. Note somewhere in all of this that Republicans have “pledged” fealty to Norquist.

Leave blank spots sprinkled throughout this video, allowing editors to upload shots of the local Republican representative—perhaps the quotes could be superimposed over photos of the local rep.

Find someone from that member’s district who’s willing to go on camera, give her or his name, and talk about how the cuts in spending/govt shutdown/default would devastate them.

Then end the video with a shot of the rep, and the question: So who do you work for, Representative [Republican]?  The Washington insider/lobbyist/whatever term of approbation, or [local constituent]?

This shouldn’t be that hard to do or that expensive to shoot, not if you consider that the bones of the vid need only be shot once and then distributed to the state parties for tailoring. (You could also make variations of this for radio.)

This is a no-brainer. MAKE THEM PAY!