Krugman on New GOP Rhetoric

Krugman_New-articleInlineA good op-ed in the NYT regarding how the rhetoric of the GOP might be changing to appeal to more voters in the wake of their recent defeat in November, but it’s not indicative of an honest change. According to Krugman, they’re just not saying they are the party of the “Makers,” and not the majority of “Takers,” in public any longer.

Read Here.

GOP Not Ready For Demographic Changes

New U.S. House: Women and minorities to the left; white men to the right – CNN.com.

Nothing incredibly surprising in this article but the important factor to note is the changing demographics in the United States going forward and how clearly out of touch with the minority groups the Republican Party continues to be.  I mentioned before how this election was a big win for progressive ideology and, in some ways, this could be a very historically important election if this begins the trend toward a more minority conscious government.  The coming change is inevitable but it doesn’t appear as if the Republican party is ready for it or even close to being prepared to take minority concerns into consideration in their policy choices.  The idea of a “big umbrella” for the GOP just isn’t true for now.

Voter Suppresion = Awful Policy Positions

The American system of voting leaves a lot to be desired and is certainly not one of the areas where we are the shining example of efficiency for the rest of the world.  Conservative David Frum penned an excellent piece shedding light on some of the issues just prior to the election that is definitely worth the time to read.  But the most worrisome and talked about problem in the United States at this time are the attempts by the right to try to suppress the rights of law-abiding voters across the country.

Just the same ole song.
Just the same ole song.

To be fair, if the shoe was on the other foot and Democrats were desperately looking for ways to win elections they were trailing, they would likely employ similar methods to try to win.  It is the nature of the beast and parties will look for any advantage they can get regardless of how immoral and reprehensible the tactic may be.  But for now, the offending group is the Republican Party and their methods are due some well-deserved criticism.

The most important factor to keep in mind is simply the effort being made.  People are looking through state election laws, deciding where to attack the hardest and make voting most difficult for likely Democratic supporters, and veiling the measures with the unrealistic idea voter fraud is a problem.  In short, time, money, and manpower is being used just to keep people from voting.  Which, underneath it all, means one critical reality for the Republican Party: they can’t win elections on their party platform and policy positions alone and they fully recognize this.

If you, as a political party, are trying to win races by making sure the supporters of your opponents don’t vote, you are acknowledging you cannot win people over on the issues and are using other means to influence the outcome.  Every dollar spent and every hour of work by someone devoted to this activity is recognition of your policy failures.  This is not an act that can be spun by the most hard-right media into something noble or patriotic or anything else other than what it is.  They have the choice to knock on doors or run more ads or print brochures selling their positions and they are choosing not to do this.  Instead, they are making the conscious decision to suppress voters as opposed to engaging them.

There is no spinning this as an act of healthy democracy or patriotism.  It is an act of desperation, immorality, cruelty, and class warfare.  The attempts at voter suppression in the pre-Civil Rights era were about fearing race.  The attempts in 2012 are clearly because of a fear of populism and this is just as shameful as the racism of the past.

Obama Won the Presidency But the Left Won Even More

To the shock of no one actually paying attention to the 2012 election, President Obama won his reelection bid along with the popular vote.  This was not surprising to anyone following the polls showing the lead he had in the electoral college vote.  But there was a series of even bigger victories worth noting for progressive ideology and a positive (albeit incremental) move for the country as a whole to the political left.

Four More Years
Four More Years

Taking a look at the highlighted ballot measures for individual states reveals how successful progressive beliefs were in this election and how far and fast the country has moved, particularly on the issue of gay rights.  The most eye-catching measures may have been the legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado.  This change in drug policy is long overdue in America and these victories bring the country one step closer to alleviating the problem and cost of incarcerating people for this non-violent crime, not to mention hurting the wallets of the violent drug cartels in Mexico.  There is still work to do here since it is illegal on the federal level but there is little doubt now where the U.S. is heading on this issue.  The prohibition of pot is coming to an end and it is only a matter of time before changes on the national level are made.

The state of Florida delivered two victories for the left on ballot measures.  Voters decided blocking women from obtaining abortions using public funding was the wrong way to go and this highly controversial issue is put to rest for now but certainly hasn’t seen its final challenge.  The other issue voted down was the limiting of the Affordable Care Act, particularly voiding the individual mandate for the state.  This went down in Florida but was successfully passed in three other heavily conservative states.  These measures are just for show, of course, as they are likely to be challenged in the courts and struck down as federal precedent will override intrusive state laws.  Three victories for the right, in some respect, but only short-lived ones at best.

But the biggest progressive victory of the night was, without a doubt, gay rights.  Minnesota voters turned down the chance to put a ban on gay marriage in their state constitution, the first defeat in the country of this type of measure.  What’s important here is the fact most of the previous measures of this kind were passed with 60% or more of the vote.  This will likely be the first of many defeats to come for these state constitution amendments.  Three states also took the further step of legalizing gay marriage.  This group of victories was capped by the election of the first gay Senator in U.S. history, Tammy Baldwin.  It should be noted Baldwin’s election comes in the state of Wisconsin where conservatives were recently celebrating victory in Governor Scott Walker’s recall election.  The tide turned quickly in Wisconsin and has clearly turned on the issue of gay rights in the United States.

Tammy Baldwin
Tammy Baldwin

There was one curious loss for the left on election night and it came in a state believed to be one of the most progressive in the country: California.  A ballot measure to ban the death penalty appears to be headed for defeat by a comfortable margin, a victory for those on the right who believe every life is precious and only God can judge when someone lives and dies.  Now they can properly kill people just as God intended.  I think that’s what was intended.  Seemingly intended.  Wait a sec, I’m choking on the confusion of the right’s rhetoric compared to their policy positions.  Regardless, the state of California has decided to continue shouldering the enormous economic cost of keeping prisoners on death row instead of the cheaper and more moral route of life sentences.  The likelihood of this conservative position lasting over time is still slim despite this outcome.

Overall, election night was good for the Democratic Party and great for the progressive minded.  The United States took a small but significant step in the right direction politically and will assuredly continue this progression in the foreseeable future.

Mr. 3.75 Percent – By Daniel Altman | Foreign Policy

Mr. 3.75 Percent – By Daniel Altman | Foreign Policy.

A good but very generalized argument against the amount of spending cuts proposed by the Paul Ryan budget.  An important fact to keep in mind from the piece:

According to the World Bank, government spending minus health care was already lower in the United States than in all of the European Union, Japan, China, and India in 2009, the latest year with comprehensive figures.

Many people probably think the opposite is true with the perception of the bloated United States’ government but it simply isn’t reality.  What level of spending is best is arguable and some great points are made by Altman on this but one thing is clear judging from history.  The government can contribute to some areas of the economy in a more efficient and better way than leaving it to the forces of the market.  We should always recognize that and know we will need certain areas run by the government in the interest of society as a whole or we will lose something we currently take for granted, whether it is security, transportation efficiency, safe food, etc.

Dear Voter, We Will Always Win. Sincerely, Military Industrial Complex

As difficult as it is to find any important stories not related to the health care decision at the moment, one actually appeared from Reuters late Friday.  It seems that despite ending one war and drawing down from another, the defense department cannot endure any budgetary cuts at the moment.  I recently commented on the marketing of defense/war in the interests of maintaining such a large budget so I read the article looking for a legitimate reason not to enact any cuts, particularly since the person asking for the block was Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.  Surely a member of the allegedly hard-lined liberal Obama administration would have a sensible reason not to cut military spending at a time when it should reasonably be cut.

And he did have a reason.  Saving his own job.  From the article and worth quoting at length:

Industry leaders (defense contractors) who met with Panetta this week warned that the Pentagon could face billions of dollars in contract termination fees and other costs when the new cuts go into force next year. Panetta said the industry executives shared many of the Pentagons fears about the cuts.

“They’re very concerned about the impact that it will have on their companies and on their employees,” Panetta told the news conference.

He noted that company executives faced legal requirements to notify their employees about possible terminations, letters that would have to go out just days before the November elections. (Emphasis mine)

In other words, the defense contractors have the officials in the Defense Department (regardless of political party I would add) by their family jewels and they are, in a not-so-veiled way, threatening to cause a firestorm days before an election if they do not get their way.  No doubt part of this situation is the timing of it all but it is hard to believe no one, particularly contractor lobbyists, saw it playing out in this fashion.

Let’s be clear.  Jobs and livelihoods are no doubt on the line here and that should be recognized.  However, some other aspects should also be noted.  Defense is a business in many aspects (certainly the private contracting element) and, in the case of the United States, it is an extremely big business.  And just like any other business, when sales go down/wars come to an end, cuts should be expected and actions will be taken accordingly.  This is obviously a very easy concept to understand for many considering the recent years of financial crisis and economic gloom in the U.S.  Peace should be seen as a time of recession for the defense department and anyone collecting a paycheck because of its existence.  It may hurt many defense contractors and those involved but it is part of life and, in many ways, the writing should have been on the wall for some time.

Yet it wasn’t and clearly the contractors have no intention of settling for such cuts.  And if this means essentially threatening the current administration’s chances at reelection in November, so be it.  But either way, regardless of what party is elected and how things may play out in this situation the people with the money will get their way and will have a big role in who wins this election.

Rule by the wealthy people in and around the military industrial complex.  Just like “democracy” should be.  (Warning: not to be confused with actual democracy.)

Mitt Romney’s Ads: Still Wrong on the Stimulus | Swampland | TIME.com

Mitt Romney’s Ads: Still Wrong on the Stimulus | Swampland | TIME.com.

One of Romney’s ads on the stimulus package gets a distortion busted.  Very good observation on this with some depth on the issue.

Romney’s Startling Proposed Spending Cuts

After getting a look at the proposed spending cuts by a potential Romney administration, I asked myself the following: why would any rational person vote for this?  No doubt some of this is simply rhetoric to win over some voters in the hard-right base but how is this appealing to the alleged swing or independent vote?  I don’t understand it and the details are rather shocking.

The first two sentences of the article say a lot:

Reducing government deficits Mitt Romney’s way would mean less money for health care for the poor and disabled and big cuts to nuts-and-bolts functions such as food inspection, border security and education.  Romney also promises budget increases for the Pentagon, above those sought by some GOP defense hawks, meaning that the rest of the government would have to shrink even more.

Romney is obviously wanting to look tough on defense but the important element to note here is that will always come at the cost of other programs.  But this increase in defense spending begs a question regarding recent reality.  Didn’t we just finish one war in Iraq and aren’t we winding down another in Afghanistan?  How and why are we needing to increase defense spending as we finish two wars?  Shouldn’t the only conversations about defense spending at the moment be regarding what cuts will be made now that the wars are over or coming to an end?  Shouldn’t we be discussing how to divert some of that defense spending to shore up some of the domestic programs that need it for the long term like Medicare?

My fault.  I forgot Romney wants to end Medicare.  As stated in the article he supports the Ryan plan “to gradually transform Medicare from a program that directly pays hospital and doctor bills into vouchers for subsidizing future beneficiaries in buying health insurance.”  Make no mistake about this being a plan to end Medicare and actually make things worse for everyone in the long run.  One of the reasons Medicare is expensive is because the elderly are typically needing to use medical care more than the young for obvious reasons.  If Medicare is ended and those folks are put into the private insurance pool through vouchers, premiums will go up for everyone as insurance companies will have to cover the higher expenses of the elderly.  Not to mention, if the Supreme Court throws out all of the Affordable Care Act in June, insurance companies will have no obligation to carry the elderly with preexisting conditions and will be able to drop them when they get sick.  The potential disaster should be clear.

Then there is Medicaid.  Romney wants to turn it over to the states in the same way welfare was turned over in the mid-’90s and became a disaster once the economy hit a downturn.  (I’ve addressed this failure here so I won’t be redundant.)  The ability to divert that money into other programs by the states in the same way welfare money is diverted will just lead to more poor people not getting health care.  “An Urban Institute study last year estimated that Ryan’s cuts would force between 14 million and 27 million people off of Medicaid by 2021. Romney’s budget would make deeper cuts.”  Note the word “force” in that quote.  Not help people find a way off.  Force.  Just as Jesus taught us, right conservatives?

One last piece of the article to address:

At issue are these programs, just to name a few: health research; NASA; transportation; homeland security; education; food inspection; housing and heating subsidies for the poor; food aid for pregnant women; the FBI; grants to local governments; national parks; and veterans’ health care.  Romney promises to immediately cut them by 5 percent. But they would have to be cut more than 20 percent to meet his overall budget goals, assuming veterans’ health care is exempted.

Some of these speak for themselves and speak volumes about conservative priorities.  A lot of attacks on the poor since they don’t contribute their $peech to campaign coffers and do not vote in high numbers so these attacks always go on without much of a fight from the people they affect.  And just to drive that point home, Romney (and Ryan) would also cut “food stamps, school lunches, crop subsidies, Supplemental Security Income for very poor seniors and disabled people, unemployment insurance, veterans’ pensions and refundable tax credits to the working poor.”  Who says Romney is out of touch with the working class and the poor?  Clearly he notices them when it comes to his budget proposals.  And remember, this isn’t cutting spending alongside defense cuts.  It’s cutting this spending because of defense increases.

But hey, let’s look at the bright side of all these cuts.  We will have plenty more bombs to blow stuff up with if Romney gets his way.  And those will help tremendously in improving our schools, health care, and economy for the future by comparison to the rest of the world.  Think about it.  Any country that hasn’t already passed us in health care and education and that starts to come close to us and make us look bad, we can blow up their hospitals and schools and maintain our mediocrity in comparison to the rest of the industrialized world.  Yay, bombs!