Friday, November 16, 2012

Myth of the fiscal cliff has sent out a "5-Point Guide to the Fiscal Showdown" that is shaping up in Congress.  
"1.  The "Fiscal Cliff" Is A Myth.  As Paul Krugman put it, "The looming prospect of spending cuts and tax increases isn't a fiscal crisis. It is, instead, a political crisis brought on by the G.O.P.'s attempt to take the economy hostage."  Republicans are manufacturing this crisis to pressure Democrats to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and accept painful cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

"2.  The Bush Tax Cuts Finally End December 31. If Congress does nothing, the ax will fall on all the Bush tax cuts on New Year's Eve.  Then, on January 1, the public pressure on John Boehner and House Republicans to extend the middle-class tax cuts (already passed by the Senate and waiting to be signed by President Obama) will become irresistible.  So the middle-class tax cut will eventually get renewed, and we'll have $823 billion more revenue from the top 2% to do great things with.

"3.  The Sequester. The sequester is another political creation, forced on Democrats by Republicans in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling last year to avoid crashing our economy. It's a set of cuts (50% to a bloated military budget and 50% to important domestic programs) designed to make both Republicans and Democrats hate it so much that they'd never let it happen. And the cuts can be reversed weeks or months into 2013 without causing damage.      

"4. The Big Three. Nothing happens to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid benefits on January 1—unless Republicans force painful cuts to beneficiaries in exchange for tax increases on the wealthy, which are going to happen anyway if Congress does NOTHING.  So, there's literally no reason benefits cuts should be part of the discussion right now.

"5.  We Should Be Talking About Jobs. The real crisis Americans want Congress to fix is getting people back to work. And with just a fraction of that $823 billion from the wealthiest 2%, we could create jobs for more than 20,000 veterans and pay for the 300,000 teachers and 52,000 first responders, which our communities so desperately need.  That's not to mention jobs from investing in clean energy and our national infrastructure."

There you have it.   Republicans once again trying to scare the nation into crisis mode to solve a "crisis" that gives them an excuse for cutting safety net and job creation spending to benefit "the 47%" so they can save their precious rich cronies.

Democrats should be bold and determined.   Kill the filibuster on the first day.   Let the tax cuts expire and the "sequester" spending cuts go into effect -- and then fix what needs to be fixed.   Republicans have more to lose politically now than Democrats.   You have the power, Democrats.  Use it.


Tom Price's rise in GOP stalled

For many years, John Lewis has been my representative in Congress.   When Georgia's population growth gave us an additional representative, the redrawn congressional map landed me in the district of Rep. Tom Price, one of the most conservative members of Congress.

At least he's not one of the crazies or one of the know-nothing crowd.   He's just very conservative, a no-compromising opponent of Obama's Affordable Care Act.

I was glad that Price lost his bid to be elected by his peers as the #4 person in the House leadership hierarchy as the Republican Conference Chair.  He had previously held the #5 position as Chair of the Republican Study Committee.

There's a good bit of schadenfreude, I admit, in my reaction;  but it's also an indicator that the Republicans are trying to move back to a more moderate position after being in thrall to the Tea Party and suffering defeat because of it.

The winner was Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state.   It is significant that their peers chose a woman and a more moderate representative.


Thursday, November 15, 2012

Romney's excuses betray his 47% mentality

Mitt Romney had a conference call yesterday with his national finance committee, and he tried to explain his loss by saying that Obama won because of the "gifts" he gave to special interest groups -- "especially the African-American community, the Hispanic community, and young people."

He specifically mentioned free contraceptives, being allowed to stay on parents' health insurance until 26, plus some help with student loan interest -- as the gifts he gave to get young people's votes.

And, of course, the whole Affordable Health Care Act is a  gift, especially to African-Americans and Hispanics.  According to Romney:
"You can imagine for somebody making $25,000 or $30,000 or $35,000 a year, being told you're going to get free health care, particularly if you don't have it, getting free heath care worth, what, $30,000 per family in perpetuity, I mean, this is huge. . . . Likewise with Hispanic voters, free health care was a big plus.  But in addition with regards to Hispanic voters, the amnesty for children of illegals, the so-called Dream Act kids, was a huge plus for the voting group."

Did anyone hear echoes in the background of "the 47%?"

Yes.   Loud and clear.  Of course he meant it the first time he said it, despite his denials when he got into political trouble for saying it.

And what were the groups you promised "gifts" to, Gov. Romney?   Millionaires, corporate executives, Wall Street, and corporations?   They are more worthy of government "gifts" in terms of tax breaks, loopholes, off shore accounts to avoid taxes, subsidies for corporate jets, and on and on?  Yes, we understand your position, more clearly than you realize;  and the voters rejected you for those reasons, among others.

Bah, humbug.   And good riddance.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Popular vote total going up

Latest counts of the popular vote totals in the November 6th election show President Obama winning by 3.5 million votes, 3% more than Romney.


It's better to be smart than to be rich

It's better to be smart than to be rich.  That just about sums up the Obama-Romney campaigns in 2012.    Oh, the Obama team raised lots of money too, both from millionaires and from millions of ordinary folks giving small amounts.

But the Obama team was 21st century smart, while the Romney team relied on 20th century tactics, fueled by their headline billionaires supplying the SuperPacs.

In a New York Times article by Jim Rutenberg, it becomes clear just how 21st century smart the Obama team was.    We knew they had a superior "ground game," by which I thought they meant huge armies of volunteers, knocking on doors, giving folks rides to the polls, etc.

They had that, but their really smart ground game took place on their computers and in their computer gurus' brains.   And that's where it's better to be smart than rich.

It seems that they used the data-mining techniques that I abhor -- you know the ones where some computer knows what TV shows you watch, what preferences you have for underwear (from online purchases), what old movies you watch, etc.

And from such data, plus mounds of data gathered from all those volunteers knocking on doors and identifying likely voters, uncommitted voters, disinterested non-voters, etc.

Then they figured out what kinds of TV shows those different groups tend to watch and made their TV ad purchases to match content to types of people likely to watch certain types of shows.

For example, the Obama team wound up putting a lot of ads on a network that mostly shows re-runs of old shows -- not your usual political adman's choice for where to advertise.   But they knew that this demographic was likely to be "low information" voters who weren't particularly interested in politics and, if they voted, wouldn't decide until the last minute.  They used ads designed to generate their interest and enthusiasm, and to provide content likely to speak to them.    Just as they put ads on Gray's Anatomy designed ads to appeal to single women, 18 to 34.

The 21st century benchmark for political campaigning has been set by the 2012 Obama team.   The Romney campaign got left in the dust of the 20th century.

Besides, Obama had the truth behind him, while Romney had only on truthiness.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Jindal: "Republicans should stop being the stupid party"

Now . . . now . . . the sane core of the Repubican party is beginning to emerge -- presumably in a frantic attempt to rescue a party shattered by letting extremists take over -- and by the resulting decisive defeat at the polls.

Former Rhodes Scholar and current Republican governor of Louisiana, Bobby Jindal has the credentials to emerge as a leader of a party ready to retreat from the dumbed down, science-debunking, and logic-defying extremists who took over the party -- and from the accommodationists, like Romney, who tried to ride their wave into the White House.

Speaking to Politico, Jindal said:
“It is no secret we had a number of Republicans damage our brand this year with offensive, bizarre comments -- enough of that. . . .  We’ve also had enough of this dumbed-down conservatism. We need to stop being simplistic, we need to trust the intelligence of the American people and we need to stop insulting the intelligence of the voters."
Jeb Bush made a few mild comments along this line during the campaign, too.

But mostly the sane ones, who would have been more likely to defeat Obama (Mitch Daniels, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Jon Huntsman) sat on the sidelines and watched as the idiots and clowns (Bachmann, Gingrich, Perry, Cain, Santorum, Trump) so tarnished the "brand" that only someone like Romney -- who would take any position, say anything necessary -- could win the nomination but lacked what it took to win the election.

Fortunately for the Democrats, Obama has four more years to put in place programs and policies that will be working by 2016 and hard to run against.   But Republicans have the same four years to repair their brand, and they have some good people-in-hiding.


PS:   I also think the American voters will be a little less gullible next time.   Realizing, just before it was too late, that they were about to give back the power of the presidency to the ones who were the primary causes of the problem to start with -- they may be more discerning next time.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who won what states

I was looking at the electoral map of states -- red states and blue states.

Something struck me.   Romney won only one "big" state, in terms of electoral votes:   Texas (38).  Then he won a few "middle sized states:  Georgia (16), North Carolina (15), Tennessee (11), Indiana (11), Arizona (11), Missouri (10).   All the rest of his 24 states had fewer than 10 electoral votes.   Total 122.

Obama, in contrast, won:   California (55), New York (29), Florida (29), Pennsylvania (20),  Illinois (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), New Jersey (14), Virginia (13), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), Wisconsin (10), Minnesota (10), Maryland (10).   Total 267.

There just weren't enough Idaho's and North Dakotas and Mississippi's to make up the difference.


Get this

I want to make this point very clear.

The rationalist, numbers cruncher Nate Silver predicted it right on the nose:   He called all 50 states exactly right, and he was off on the popular vote by only 0.2%.  Obama's win was 0.2% more than Nate predicted.

But all the other polls were way off -- and especially the Republicans' internal polls.  They were fully expecting a big win -- and they had a big loss.

The fact is that this was not a close election.   It was a very decisive win for Obama and the Democrats in Congress.   He won 332 electoral votes (needing 270 to win), and he won the popular vote by 2.7%.

And, far from losing six or more seats and control of the senate, as was feared, Democrats increased their margin by 2 seats and now have a 55 to 45 majority.


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Wry humor

The 2012 election saw the legalization of marijuana (Colorado) and same-sex marriage (Maryland, Maine, and Washington state).   Which fulfills the prophecy in Leviticus:

"If a man lies with a man as with a woman, he should be stoned."

 With thanks to John Carson and Charles Ballance, who I do not know.  Their email was forwarded to me through links of several friends.


Coming to their senses

It's said that "Nothing concentrates the mind like an imminent hanging."    I would add a corollary to that:   "Nothing brings political parties to their senses like a resounding defeat at the polls."

So -- enter the Sunday morning political talk shows.    Bill Kristol, blase neo-con and editor of The Weekly Standard, said on FoxNews this morning:
 "It won't kill the country if we raise taxes a little bit on millionaires. . . .  I don't really understand why Republicans don't take Obama's offer." 
OK.   Nice to have you on board, Bill.   But who really takes you seriously since you promoted Sarah Palin to be John McCain's VP running mate?

Then another frequent Sunday morning-er, Sen. Lindsay Graham, chimed in on "Face the Nation," showing new reasonableness on immigration reform, saying that he and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) are working on an immigration reform bill that would include a pathway to citizenship for undocumented workers already in the U.S.

Noting how the Republican party had alienated Hispanic voters, he said:

"This is an odd formula for a party to adopt: the fastest-growing demographic in the country and we're losing votes every election cycle, it has to stop.  It's one thing to shoot yourself in the foot -- just don't reload the gun. . . . But we have nobody to blame but ourselves when it comes to losing Hispanics."
Now, let's see them come to their senses on a few other issues:   gay rights, women's issues, military spending, economic stimulus over debt reduction, etc.