Saturday, October 12, 2013

Throw the bums out . . . all of them

In a new poll, only 1 in 4 people think their own member of Congress should be re-elected.

That is also a remarkable change.   Not too long ago, even when Congress' approval rating was in single digits, close to a majority still said they would vote to re-elect their representatives.

This is really significant, because gerrymandering of districts has led to incumbant-safe House seats, which is what has made control of the House relatively safe for Republicans.  As long as they control state governments, they control gerrymandering (in most states, that is).   A couple of states have adopted some sort of non-political process for drawing district lines.

Democrats now say they are within striking distance of gaining control of the House in 2014.   This would be wonderful.  It would make all the difference in President Obama's ability to get things done -- and allow his legacy to be closer to what we all hoped for when we elected him in 2008.


Friday, October 11, 2013

Why are they surprised?

On NBC news this morning, Chuck Todd and Brian Williams discussed the latest NBC poll of public opinion about the government shutdown.    Even the pollsters themselves were shocked at how negative it has turned for the Republicans.

The 53% disapproval rating for the Republican Party is the worst in the 25 years since NBC began polling.    The results showed 53% blamed the Republicans, 31% blamed the president -- that's a 22% difference, which is devastating to the Republicans.    It shows that this has backfired on them . . . big time.

Todd commented that "John Boehner and Ted Cruz have successfully done what Newt Gingrich couldn't do: get a majority of the country to blame the Republicans rather than a plurality."

He added that Republicans have also made Obamacare "less unpopular" than it was.    Well, perhaps backlash against their distortions has had a negative effect on the party.   But isn't it also possible that the early success (measured by the numbers of people trying to enroll) has something to do with improving public's perception?

Why were the pollsters surprised?   This is exactly what I expected -- and hoped -- would happen.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Even the Mormon church is changing on gay issues

In 2008, a Utah Mormon couple, Wendy and Tom Montgomery, campaigned door to door in California for the passage of the anti-gay marriage proposition 8.    The LDS Church was one of the leading supporters of Prop8.

But since then, they have learned that their son is gay.  In a Huffington Post article by Brady McCombs, Wendy says her reaction to learning about her son made her question everything.   "I'm looking at this 13-year-old boy who is totally innocent and pure and an amazing kid and I think, 'Either everything I know about homosexuality is wrong, or my son is not really gay. And, he's obviously gay.' I kind of had to unlearn everything I had learned."

The Montgomerys stayed in the church but changed to another congregation that was less condemning, and they have started an organization that works with conservative religious families "to help them navigate their doctrines while accepting their gay children."

The LDS church has also softened its stance since 2008.  This year, church leaders backed the Boy Scout's revised policy of allowing gay boys to join.

The steps are small -- a change from total condemnation to saying that same-sex attractions are not a sin but succumbing to them is.  Nevertheless for long-time Mormons it is a big change.  And that is especially true for gay and lesbian people who suffered that condemnation or who left the church because of it.

With Pope Francis in the Vatican, and with the Mormons softening their anti-gay doctrines -- along with the avalanche of states approving gay marriage and the federal government recognizing all same-sex marriages for benefits . . . .  the battle seems over.   Just a mopping up operation.

The Westboro Baptist Church protesters probably won't change, but they are small and increasingly irrelevant.  

It's a new day that I never thought would happen.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Janet Yellen for Fed Chair

Amid all the craziness in Washington, one good thing happened today.   The news was leaked that President Obama plans to nominate Janet Yellen for the next Federal Reserve Chair.

She is eminently qualified and a much better choice than Larry Summers would have been.   Back when Summers was still Obama's first choice, 20 senators sent him a letter strongly recommending Yellen -- which of course was both an endorsement of her and also signalling that they did not want him to nominate Summers.

In that letter, they emphasized her "independence, intellectual rigor and willingness to challenge conventional wisdom regarding deregulation -- traits essential for a successful Fed Chairman."

Calling Yellen "the pre-eminent policy economist of her generation," University of Michigan professor of economics and public policy Justin Wolfers, said further:
"Yellen is quite simply more qualified for the job than any of her predecessorsShe's an imaginative and technically adept economist possessed of a brilliant and precise mind.  As a researcher, she has made fundamental contributions to our understanding of unemployment and the importance of smoothing out the ups and downs of the economy. . . .

"[She is] deeply passionate about the capacity for economics to improve people's lives . . .  [Her] appointment reflects concern for Main Street, though it comes with a deep understanding of Wall Street. . . .  She's also remarkably humble. . . . . But Yellen is a tough and natural leader. . . . 

"While it's true that Yellen has forcefully advocated for more monetary stimulus in recent years, what's more notable is that she has gotten the big calls rightThose who argued for tighter monetary policy have been proved wrong.  Inflation rates have been persistently below target, and unemployment has been too high.

"If Yellen had been in charge of the Fed over the past few years, millions fewer would be jobless, and we would be less concerned about the danger of deflation.   The point is that Yellen's pragmatic reading of the macroeconomic tea leaves has led her to avoid the errors of her theory-bound colleagues who have seen the threat of inflaton around every corner.  Both hawks and doves should applaud this appointment."
Sounds good to me.   And we dodged the Larry Summers bullet.


Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fairy tales

Republicans are either far out of touch with reality -- or else they know what they're saying is absurd, and they are cynical enough to intentionally try to fool the American people.  So what's new about that?   That's their standard operating procedure.

This morning, we have Rand Paul saying that the president "is being irresponsible" to even mention the word "default," when discussing what looms ahead.   This from one of the ring-leaders in holding America hostage to their attempt to defund Obamacare.

And Mr. Shutdown himself, who seems to revel in what's happening (because it keeps his name in the news), Ted Cruz said the government shutdown fight has "not remotely" hurt the Repulican brand.

Meanwhile, John Boehner said that he doesn't have the votes in the House to pass a clean bill and stop this whole thing.    But that is simply not true.   The count is now up to 21 (it only takes 17) Republicans who have said they are ready to vote on such a bill and end the shutdown.    What Boehner apparently means is that he doesn't have enough Republican votes to pass it.   A bipartisan vote would end it in a minute.

Then out of the other side of his mouth, Boehner derides the president for "not being willing to compromise."

Are there any adults left in the Republican party?   Why aren't they taking charge.   Certainly they don't approve of this.    John McCain?    Susan Collins?   Anyone?


Obamacare's success

Don't be fooled by Fox News and right wing talk radio accounts of what a failure Obamacare is proving to be.    Yes, there are glitches in being able to gain access to the websites.

But the glitches are not so much the fault of the program but due to the huge volumes of traffic -- literally millions of people trying to log on for information and application for the plans.

The problems are a measure of the success of Obamacare, not of failure.

That is exactly what has the Republicans so terrified -- Obamacare is going to prove popular -- which will prove to the people that Republicans have been lying to them about how awful a program it is.

Even promoters of the program have been surprised at the interest shown thus far.   There's no cause for alarm.   Any such new program is going to have glitches, just as the Medicare Part D coverage of prescription drugs did under George W. Bush's administration -- and that is now a widely popular program.

All will get ironed out with a little time -- which the program has.  The enrollment period extends for several months, and coverage doesn't begin until next March anyway.   So there's no rush.   It's going to work -- and we'll wonder why anybody ever opposed it.