Priorities (OR Putting things in perspective)

December 7, 2008

As is becoming my habit, I’m a bit behind on this. Still, I think it’s worth highlighting a couple related posts.

First, from Robert Reich:

Our preoccupation with the immediate crisis of financial capital is causing us to overlook the bigger crisis in America’s human capital. While we commit hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars to Wall Street, we’re slashing our outlays for public education.

Education is largely funded by state and local governments whose revenues are plummeting. As consumers cut back, state sales and income taxes are shrinking; three quarters of the states are already facing budget crises. On average, state revenues account for half of public school budgets, and most of the funding of public colleges and universities. On top of this, home values are dropping, which means local property taxes are also taking a hit. Local property taxes account for 40 percent of local school budgets.

The result: Schools are being closed, teachers laid off, after-school programs cut, so-called “noncritical” subjects like history eliminated, and tuitions hiked at state colleges.

It’s absurd.

And then, to underscore his point, comes this graph from Wonk Room:

That’s a precipitous fall-off in the last 6 years. We’re really not setting ourselves up to be successful in the future.

This is the sort of thing that that makes me dread what the next 10-15 years are going to be like. President Bush has done some significant short term damage to our nation and society…  I’m really afraid that he’s done some long term damage as well.

A President Obama is going to have his hands full, and there’s no doubt that the Republicans will do their damndest to keep his administration, and the Democratic congress from cleaning up the mess.

It’s a really depressing time.


Lull (OR Running in Circles)

November 29, 2008

Observant readers will note that I haven’t been writing much of late. I’m sure I could come up with a whole bunch of excuses, but the bottom line is that I really haven’t been moved to write.

Fortunately, and to the great relief of many, Mr. Obama won the election. Since then there has been much fuss and made-up controversy over President-elect Obama’s staff and cabinet selections. I’m certainly not plugged in to the Washinton establishment to really work myself up about who he picks for what post, and why. There seems to be some consternation that the President-elect isn’t creating an ultraliberal cabinet, or even a liberal one.

To me, this feels like, somewhere along the line, people began to believe the propoganda that President-elect Obama is some ultra-liberal politician. I really am surprised that this is causing such a stir. He’s been center-left throughout his career, this profound centrism shouldn’t surprise anyone. Would I prefer he be more liberal? Absolutely. I said as much back in primary season (which feels o’ so long ago). But, he will be the President, and he’s vastly more liberal than the current occupant of that office. That needs to be enough.

Interestingly, while the ultra-liberal meme from the campaign is being disproven, so too is another bizarre assertion from the McCain campaign: that President-elect Obama was not ready to lead. The last few weeks have demonstrated exactly how groundless that assertion was. I obeserved during that campaign that Obama’s leadership was on display in the campaign itself. Now, while lame-duck President Bush and his administration does nothing to attempt to lead the economy out of the dumpster, and actively tries to lead us further in on other topics, President-elect Obama is doing everything he can to get us through the next couple months without allowing our economy to implode.

And what is “everything” he can? Talking, pointing, influencing, and leading. He has no official power to wield, and yet he’s supporting a crumbling economy through force of will, demonstrated in is selection of economic pragmatists as his advisors. When I try to imagine what a President-elect McCain would be doing right now, how he would be trying to fit the square peg of reality into the round hole of his (and his advisors’) ideology, I can only see him fumbling around in much the same way he did during the campaign. That’s not leadership at all.

And so, here we are. Just under 2 months left in the failed presidency of George W. Bush, and all I can do, as I read the news, and watch the fallout, is hope that President-elect Obama can hold things together from his powerless perch, since it’s painfully clear that President Bush couldn’t care less about what happens to this country.


Tricked (OR Falling for it again)

November 17, 2008

Dave appears to have discovered that he’s partisan. Or, perhaps, that he’s a hack. Amazingly, he thinks the Bush Administration is to be commended for being so gracious during this transition period.

I think he’s forgotten who he’s talking about here. This is an administration that has consistently lied to or obscured truth from the country; that has regularly formed an appealing public image while performing some of the most despicable acts ever committed by a President of this country.

Anyway- while we’re admiring how nice a guy President Push is, and how helpful he’s being to the incoming an Obama Administration, we’re missing stuff like this:

Now, of course, Bush has entered into his own midnight period, and it promises to be a dark time indeed. Among the many new regulations—or, rather, deregulations—the Administration has proposed are rules that would: make it harder for the government to limit workers’ exposure to toxins, eliminate environmental review from decisions affecting fisheries, and ease restrictions on companies that blow up mountains to get at the coal underneath them. Other midnight regulations in the works include rules to allow “factory farms” to ignore the Clean Water Act, rules making it tougher for employees to take family or medical leave, and rules that would effectively gut the Endangered Species Act. Most regulations are subject to public input; such is the sense of urgency that the Administration has brought to the task of despoliation that the Interior Department completed its “review” of two hundred thousand public comments on the endangered-species rules in just four days, a feat that, one congressional aide calculated, required each staff member involved to read through comments at the rate of seven per minute. “So little time, so much damage” is how the Times recently put it.

[…]

What distinguishes this Administration in its final days—as in its earlier ones—is the purity of its cynicism. White House officials haven’t even bothered to argue that these new rules are in the public interest. Such a claim would, in any event, be impossible to defend, as just about every midnight regulation being proposed is, evidently, a gift to a favored industry.

Rachel Maddow’s on the case too.

Bottom line: I think it would serve us well to remember who were talking about here.


Tired (OR Just hang on…)

October 5, 2008

I’ve found it difficult to find the motivation to post here lately. It’s certainly been difficult to get my brain to shift from overactive geek mode (thanks to some time consuming, but exciting, stuff at work…  and some at home geekery that I’ll be telling you all about shortly) to political commentary mode. But it’s not just that…

Every day that goes by, I have a harder and harder time imagining two things:

1) How anyone could still be undecided in this presidential campaign? Seriously, these two candidates are, to me, so far apart on just about any spectrum that I can’t envision a place in the middle where someone could reside. Sen. Obama is probably a bit more liberal than Pres. Clinton was, and Sen. McCain seems more conservative than Pres. Bush. Sen. Obama is young, inspirational, rational, and intellectual. Sen. McCain is old, cranky, irrational, and stubborn. What does this place where undecided voters reside look like?

2) How can anyone vote for Sen. McCain? Every thing he and his campaign do seem geared towards getting elected. Obvious, right? But listen to the candidates…  Sen. Obama spends lots of time talking about what he would do, and how he would act, were he president. Sen. McCain spends lots of time talking about why you should elect him (“Sen. Obama doesn’t understand” … “Sen. Obama is un-American” …  “I’m a maverick”). It seems like Sen. McCain’s goal is to be elected president. Sen. Obama’s, in contrast, is to be what he considers a good president. Beyond that, I just don’t understand how anyone (other than, perhaps, the 5% of America earning more that $250,000 a year) can believe that Sen. McCain’s policies are in their best interests. Want to lose your health care? Want to continue to encourage the continued destructive use of fossil fuels? Want to see even more government protections and personal freedoms destroyed? Want to further damage our already significantly tarnished image throughout the world? Want to place our nation at further risk by fostering a fertile recruiting ground for our enemies? Vote for McCain.

I feel like I’m torn between wanting to believe that the Obama campaign is right, that Americans are smarter than the McCain campaign seems to believe, and feeling like Bill Maher is right: Americans are dumb.

Still, even if I’m not sure that Maher is right in that case, he is right that we get the government we deserve.

I think it’s time to hope that we realize we deserve better.


Tax Plans (OR The Devil in the Details)

September 20, 2008

Via Ezra comes this nifty little page that will estimate tax changes based on income tiers. I’d seen this before, but didn’t look that closely. At first glance, it’s about what you’d expect at each tier. When you compare tiers, though, the inequity is painfully clear.

For a single filer, no dependants, Sen. McCain won’t offer a tax break larger than $100 until you make $100,000, where Sen. Obama will offer 7 to 8 times that for people making 10 time less.

For those people making $10,000 to $15,000, Sen. McCain offers less than $20 off their current taxes. Twenty dollars! That’s one dinner at Applebee’s a year. Sen. Obama’s $700-$800 could pay for a couple months of rent.

On the other hand, Sen. McCain’s plan seems to encourage lots of kids for middle income families:

Married, two earners, no dependents, $50,000: -$40
Married, two earners, 2 dependents, $50,000: -$760

I could go on, but you get the picture. If you have some time, play around a bit…


The Other Side (OR Dangerous Assumptions)

September 6, 2008

Ta-Nehisi Coates, who has filled Matt Yglesias’ spot at The Atlantic, said something that made me think about Sen. Obama, and the political environment in Washington, DC.

My strength is in […] assuming that the people on the other side have their reasons also.

Sen. Obama has often talked about his willingness to listen to opposing opinions, perspectives, and thoughts. On it’s own, that sounds well and good, and I’m sure it appeals to conservative voters. But, I wonder how it will play in Washington, where Republicans seem to be more interested in uniformity than independent thought.

I certainly believe in the value of open dialog and discussion, but I just don’t see Republicans acting in good faith. You can see it in how they blindly adhere to President Bush’s policies, in how they constantly revert to the politics of fear and baseless personality attacks. I just don’t see the value in engaging with people whose positions seem to be based in ideology. It’s impossible to negotiate with them.

Discussion, dialog, conversation, negotiation, and compromise are all good things, and should all be part of politics. But we need our representatives to represent us in those proceedings in good faith, not as blind followers to a political ideology.
This, I think, is one of my larger concerns in an Obama administration. That, by committing to working “across the aisle” he’ll end up being pulled much further to the right than necessary. That, by assuming Republican politicians are operating in good faith, that he’ll willing cede ground towards a compromise that will not be reciprocated, and we’ll end up with half-ass solutions to the challenges we face.


Disconnect (OR Inside the Republican Mind)

September 4, 2008

Marc Ambinder had a couple nuggets today from the McCain campaign that deserve comment.

First:

McCain will focus on the battles he’s had with his party and make the contrast: has Obama ever taken on his party when it was politically inexpedient?

This is one of those things that the McCain camp seems to bring up often, as though it’s a badge of honor. Look, it’s really easy to oppose Republican policies and ideas. It can be really easy to find an issue to oppose the GOP on and, simultaneously, appeal to the vast majority of Americans. I think it’s, generally, much harder to do the same with Democratic policies. Taking on a party that is generally wrong almost can’t be politically inexpedient, by definition.

Next:

[The McCain Campaign] insist[s] that no one knows what a community organizer is, and whatever they think it is, it doesn’t compare to being a mayor.

[…]

Indeed, the Obama campaign knows that many Americans don’t know what a community organizer does, and they’ve changed the way they refers to Obama’s experience too. When he talks about community organizing now, he references his organizing work for churches. That embeds the work in a more familiar context. Inner city Catholics know what community organizers do, certainly.

So, if we accept that “inner city Catholics” know what community organizers do, and further posit that many church goes at least have an inkling of the same, doesn’t that really leave “elite” urban and suburbanites as the only people who don’t know? Doesn’t that mean that the McCain campaign is appealing to the same “elites” of which they claim Sen. Obama is a member?

Maybe it’s just me.