Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Rachel Maddow on the Ryan budget

Last night, Rachel Maddow made a very pointed observation.   Paul Ryan's just released "new" budget plan (which hurts the lower income folks even more than his old plan) is the same plan that he and Romney ran on during the 2012 election --- and lost.   Preserve the tax cuts and loopholes for the wealthy and preserve defense spending;  repeal ObamaCare, turn Medicare into a voucher program, cut Medicaid, money for education, etc.

She showed a clip of him from back then saying this was a big moment of decision for the American people:  two different ideologies about the government, and two different approaches to the budget.   The American people will choose which they want.

Well, said Rachel.   The Amercian people did choose, and they chose Obama and the Democrats.   They rejected Romney/Ryan and their budget plan.

So, naturally, Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, comes back trying to sell the same (or worse) budget that got decisively voted down in November.

Why?    Well, it seems that the Republicans don't pay much attention to the wisdom of the voters.   Another case in point:  gun control.   A staggering 91% of the American people favor expanding background checks on all purchases of guns, even at gun shows and private deals.

And exactly how many Republicans voted for that measure when it came up?    None.   Zero Zilch.

The next move couldn't be clearer.   Vote them out of office in 2014.


Monday, March 11, 2013

The NYT catches up on guns

I wrote about it here almost two weeks ago (Feb. 27), and yesterday the New York Times finally wrote a lead front page story about the decline in the percentage of homes with guns.

It's based on the same study from the prestigious General Social Survey, done by a research center at the University of Chicago, which asks people about a number of things in their lives and is the source for many important demographic data bases.

From the news about gun shops being flooded with customers, and the total number of guns owned in the U.S. (about 200 million), you would think that two out of every three homes were armed.  Not so.    Here, quoting the Times:
The household gun ownership rate has fallen from an average of 50 percent in the 1970s to 49 percent in the 1980s, 43 percent in the 1990s, and 35 percent in the 2000s.

The latest data is from 2012 and shows 34 percent of homes have a gun.   And the decline is true in all parts of the country, in red states as well as blue states, in cities as well as suburbs, in homes with children and in homes without children.   The biggest demographic drop was in people under 30. 

The one big difference was political affiliation.   There was a steep drop among Democrats and only a slight decline among Republicans.

The director of the survey attributes the decline to the decline in hunting and to a sharp drop in violent crime.   This fits with the general shift in population from rural areas, where ownership is high, to urban and suburban, where it has always been lower.

The NRA simply refutes the findings of declining ownership, pointing to the increase in gun sales and the long waits for gun safety training, as well as the growing number of background checks triggered by would-be gun purchasers.

Why the apparent discrepancy?   Assuming the data are right, the obvious answer would seem to be:   fewer people buying more guns.   Some folks who own guns have just got to go out and buy the AR-15 while they still can and pick up a Glock while they're at it.   The paranoid mistrust of the government, and the right-wing hype about Obama wanting to take away their guns certainly contributes to the craze among those with such fears.

But how large is this paranoid fringe?   Probably not as large as we think given the amount of emotion surrounding the issue and the media's mega-amplification of the hype.

Here's the question:   Which moves the Congress to pass laws:   data?   or emotion?   I'd like to think it was a balance of the two:   emotion bringing the questions that are then tempered by data.

The real answer, in this case, sadly, is probably neither.   It's money from the gun lobby and the threat of opposition in the next election if they dare vote for gun control of any sort.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Aunt Minnie McConnell has competition

Well placed sources say that Ashley Judd has decided to run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, that chinless wonder that I like to call "Aunt Minnie."  Why, you ask?    Look at a picture of that droopy doughy face, the pasty complexion, the pursed lips;  picture it in a little lace cap.  Isn't he the spittin' image of your old Aunt Minnie?

So who better to run against him than beautiful Hollywood actress, environmentalist, women's rights advocate Ashley Judd?    She spent most of her childhood and college years in Kentucky and, according to Howard Fineman:  "She is smart, feisty and charming, and probably can, as one local here put it, 'out-Kentucky and out-country' the Louisville-based, owlishly professorial McConnell in a state where down-home, one-handshake-at-a-time style still matters."

No Democrat in Kentucky has better polls against McConnell than she does.   She has the backing of some politically important Democrats and the ability to raise a lot of money.

We might even just have the Democrats' saner, smarter answer to Sarah Palin:   A woman who captures your attention by her looks and charm but, unlike Palin, one who has something intelligent and progressive to say.  She's smart, quick-witted, and a fighter.   She also has a master degree in public administration from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government and has experience as an activist for the environment, education, anti-poverty programs, and women's issues.   As an ambassador for the global YouthAIDS organization, she has traveled to Cambodia, Kenya, and Rwanda.

She can be down-home Southern (for courting the voters), or the Hollywood sophisticate (for raising money), or the global activist for good causes (for moral respect).  When asked whether she was tough enough to take on McConnell and the national GOP attack machine, Judd answered:  "I have been raped twice, so I think I can handle Mitch McConnell.”

Sounds like just what the Senate needs to join Elizabeth Warren, Patty Murray, Barbara Boxer, Diane Feinstein, Kirsten Gillibrand, Barbara Mikulski, Claire McCaskill, Tammy Baldwin, and the eight other Democratic women senators.

Wouldn't it be lover-ly to have another like them take down the most powerful Republican in the Senate?  It can happen.


More Elizabeth Warren

First, I want to thank the people of Massachusetts for electing Elizabeth Warren to represent them in the U. S. Senate.   She is going to be a major force for progressive legislation and regulation.

After Attorney General Eric Holder told the Banking Committee this week that it's difficult for the DoJ to prosecute the big banks because of the risk of what it would do to the economy.   Here's what Sen. Warren wrote about that:
This is wrong -- just plain wrong. We are a country that believes in equal justice under the law -- not special deals for the big guys. And that's not all the special deals that the big banks get.

According to recent calculations by Bloomberg, the top ten biggest banks receive an $83 billion subsidy every year in the form of lower borrowing costs -- something not available to your community bank or credit union.
To put things in perspective -- that $83 billion subsidy is about the same amount of money being fought over in the sequestration.
So why are we still debating this issue at all? . . .  We know we can take on the big banks and their army of lobbyists and win because we've done it before.
When banks are too big to fail, too big to jail, too big for trial, too big to manage, too big to regulate, too big to shrink, and too big to reform... they are just too big.
We're just getting started here.
Now that's the kind of thinking we need in Congress.