Monthly Archives: January 2013

Debt is what Upsets me Most about Gun Control

“ The oath I have sworn before you today…was an oath to God and country, not party or faction and we must faithfully execute that pledge during the duration of our service.”  The charisma and stature of President Obama rang clear once more at his second inaugural address today. His passion, his fire, and his oratory are among the most impressive in modern time. Sometimes it feels like there is nothing he cannot accomplish. 72% of people say they like him personally. By comparison, only 18% like Congress. But he rarely risks his popularity by throwing his political weight behind a cause. He has now done this with gun control.

Like most of my fellow Kentuckians I enjoy firearms, and oppose gun control; not because I like them, but because the research is clear. Fewer guns do not result in less crime. In fact, when gun control measures are taken, we often see violent crime increase. But what frustrates me most about President Obama’s support of gun control is the lack of risk he takes now that he is taking a stand.

“We were made for this moment and we will seize it so long as we seize it together,” he said in his address. But he seems to have little interest in any togetherness. His 23 executive actions on gun control and his Congressional proposals are nothing but a poke in the eye of his opponents. He has thrown his passion against his enemies only. Now, I am not one to blame fast food for making one fat, but I find it very interesting that President Obama did nothing the challenge Hollywood, the entertainment industry, or the violence in our culture when he decided to take on gun control.

It is only going to get worse,

It is only going to get worse,

It does not say much for the character of a man if he uses his power for things that benefit him.  On the other hand, it speaks volumes of his character if he will use his power for things that benefit everyone. President Obama is leaving his allies conspicuously unscathed in gun control and debt. He has not challenged them because they are his breadwinners. Money and influence flooded in by the barge load to his campaign from Hollywood and Liberals that love entitlements, so he has left them alone as he has Democrats when it comes to debt. Instead, he has directly challenged his foes, and done nothing to challenge his allies.

His failure to challenge his allies is a pattern that repeats throughout his presidency. Our debt and deficit are far more threatening to this nation than the 300 deaths per year from rifles. At least twice in his first term Speaker Boehner put $800 billion of revenue on the table—a massive political risk—because he knew our fiscal situation was disastrous. Now we have even seen the Republicans pass more revenue in the fiscal cliff deal, but we have not seen any pressure from President Obama to cut entitlements—about 2/3 of our budget. Instead, he defends them and tells Republicans he will not negotiate.

Entitlements are not bad, but the debt they drive is a time bomb, and time is running out. It is time for Obama to use his influence and show he has character. His friends need to be challenged as he has challenged his foes. If he is as serous about a balanced approach to debt as he publically claims he is then it is time for the cards to be on the table. He must walk the walk. A true leader would fight for a fix, not for his political party.

Republicans have already crossed their red line and agreed to increase taxes. If President Obama has any integrity he will pull his party across their red line and reform entitlements. We need leadership and President Obama might be the most capable man for the job.

“America’s possibilities are endless” he said to a crowd scores of thousands strong. But if you listen to his newly appointed Treasury Secretary that is not true unless we fix our long term debt crisis. In 10 years Medicare and Medicaid spending alone is projected to be 100% of our budget. If we want our children to have possibilities as endless as ours we need to act now. He needs to act now. It has come time to put off the act of a strong leader and walk the walk. Be the man you pretend to be in your speeches. Be the man you are to the opposition on gun control.

Spending and debt are such uncontrollable problems, and such trophies to conservatives that I believe President Obama could kill two birds with one stone. Should he put his weight behind deficit reduction—real deficit reduction that must include entitlement reform—I believe conservatives would concede a compromise of much of what President Obama wants on gun control.

Now is the time for leadership.

Now is the time for leadership.

Here is a deal worth thinking about; entitlement cuts in exchange for defense cuts, more revenue through tax reform, and gun control. And I do not want to hear about how Social Security is not a driver of our debt, we are already paying out more than we are taking in and the nation is getting older, not younger. The trust fund has been raided for decades and workers cannot afford to pay the benefits for those coming up on retirement. So we need to raise the age for Social Security and Medicare; 68 at least, preferably to 70 within a few years. People are still typically very healthy into their 70’s, benefits at 65 are no longer a necessity. Medicaid is also exploding. We have to look into Medicaid savings, particularly with the Obamacare takeover, millions more will be pushed onto Medicaid. Right now is the time to save some money. We need to cut the military budget; we do not need a military budget larger than the next 10 largest in the world combined. Those four programs alone cover close to 85% of our budget, cut them, we cut the deficit.

For all of this I have no doubts Republicans would agree to at least another $300-$400 billion in revenue. On top of the $620 billion from the fiscal cliff that puts us roughly at $1 trillion. Through in another $1 trillion from Overseas Contingency Operations (the closing of the Afghan war in 2014) and we have $2.5 trillion in revenue—more than Obama has asked for. These cuts would be such an achievement for right wingers that I think you could get this compromise on gun control: universal background checks, registration of all assault rifles, possibly permits for assault rifles similar to the permits we have currently for concealed weapons, a ban on body armor (by the way, why is nobody talking about these last two?), and a limit on magazine size at 30 or possibly even 20. I do not think 10 is a realistic agreement, and I do not think a total ban on assault weapons is a realistic agreement either, but this gives President Obama almost everything he wanted from gun control.

But all this would take a true leader. Someone the public likes and admires not afraid of a fight—not afraid of his own allies. If President Obama would put the energy and passion for gun control behind deficit reduction he might end up with both, and become one of the greatest Presidents of all time along the way. But taking on your allies requires the type of character we just have not yet seen from Barack Obama. This term will be the test of that character.

–Matt Young

21 January 2013

Hurricane Sandy Relief and the Debt Ceiling

179 Republicans do not think this is worth cleaning up.

179 Republicans do not think this is worth cleaning up.

So we have another standoff on the debt limit, this seriously cannot surprise anyone. House Republicans are threatening to default if there are not spending cuts while President Obama has refused to negotiate with “terrorists”. At a breakfast I had with Speaker Boehner at the end of last year, he said that Congress would raise the debt limit because it was their responsibility to do so. Now I am not convinced this will happen. The sanity of Speaker Boehner is being vetoed by the extremism of the Republican Party. The Speaker is coming dangerously close to losing control of his members.

Why do I suddenly think Republicans might push us into default? Hurricane Sandy. The fact that 179 of 233 House Republicans voted against giving aid to Hurricane Sandy victims shows they would rather make an ideological stand than help the American people. No matter how bad it hurts the American people and economy, Republicans might push us to bankruptcy to prove a point.

Patriotslog has been a loud advocate for spending cuts since our beginning, so I understand the Republican concern. But I find myself more in the President’s corner on this issue. The simplest way to explain the debt ceiling standoff, in case you just returned from Gilligan’s Island and have not heard anything about it, is that Congress passes laws telling the Government how much it can tax, then passes laws telling the Government how much it can spend. Now a significant group of Congress is telling the President he must break one of those laws they passed by taxing more or spending less than they have allowed, or our nation will have to declare bankruptcy. Congress has racked up the credit card bill, now half of them are suggesting we refuse to pay it. Maybe Warren Buffett was right. Jokes aside, our deficit problem would go away faster than Michele Bachmann’s support for her presidential campaign if these guys were disqualified for re-election because of too much red ink.

77% of Republicans voted against the aid package for Hurricane Sandy victims. Many of whom are the same Republicans who voted for more defense spending. It is crazy that these people would rather see our military–already bigger than the next ten largest militaries combined–get even larger than help someone rebuild their home, their business, their school, and their life after blunting the second most destructive hurricane in our history. Only Hurricane Katrina was more destructive.

So I got to thinking, how many Republicans voted against Hurricane Katrina relief? Only 11. Then I decided to look further than that. I looked at every disaster I could find since 2000 with over $10 billion in damages, and what I found made me even more concerned about the Hurricane Sandy relief vote. The 9/11 relief package had zero Republicans oppose. Ditto for Hurricane Ivan. Hurricane Rita? Only 19. When additional hurricane damage burdened the gulf region zero Republicans opposed additional aid. There was no vote for wildfire relief, but I think it is safe to assume it would have had large support.

So why the lack of support now? It could be because the Sandy hit heavily Democratic states, so it provided a convenient opportunity for Republicans to prove a point. If this sounds farfetched, consider–this and keep in mind I am not a Democrat, so I have no party bias against Republicans. Rick Perry, Governor of Texas, cut his own states firefighting budget, then criticized FEMA because he thought Texas deserved more aid for wildfires. Republican Congressman Steven Polazzo of Mississippi lobbied heavily for Hurricane Katrina relief, then voted against Hurricane Sandy relief. The Kansas City Star highlighted a handful of Congressman that voted against Hurricane Sandy relief after heavily benefitting from federal disaster aid themselves.

So the question that I think all 179 Republicans need to be asked is, “if your district had needed the disaster relief, would it have changed your vote?” I would have serious moral concerns about any representative that answers yes. American people are suffering; United we stand, divided we fall. To discriminate aid and relief because of geographical location or political party is beyond low. If these Republicans would vote against aid to every district, including their own, this might not concern me, but I just cannot believe that would happen. It would appear they care less for the good of the American people than the finances of the nation. That is why I cannot be so sure our debt ceiling will be raised. Default would be catastrophic both for our nation and the world. But if pulling the rug out from under our economy and livelihood proves a point, it seems conservatives are all for it.

What concerns me most is that last year’s ultra-conservative caucus–Representatives like Eric Cantor, Tom Cole, Scott Garrett, and Frank Lucas –voted for the relief bill. So exactly how extreme is this new Republican House to vote overwhelmingly against it? Extreme enough to take the unprecidented measure of default? It seems plausable to think so now.

 

–Matt Young

16 January, 2012

Where are the Women in the White House?

women

A potential cabinet meeting for Obama’s new term lacks diversity.

John Kerry, John Brennan, Jack Lew, Chuck Hagel. Do you notice anything odd about these names? The media definitely has. These four nominees for the second term Cabinet of President Obama all happen to be white men. A recent picture run by the New York Times shows a potential staff for the second term. In it are one woman, one non-white man, and a herd of white men. This has many in the media–and therefore, many in America–up in arms. I guess nobody gave President Obama his binder full of women after he won the election.

Amid all the implications of sexism and inequality being thrown around by feminists, and the predictable war on women cry from angry conservatives one very important point of view is being ignored; the President’s. We are asking Barack Obama to perform one of the hardest jobs any human being could take on. Under ideal circumstances being President is enough to drive many people clinically insane. Throw in trillion dollar deficits, two wars, a collapsing, then fragile economy, a near default, a credit downgrading, a fiscal cliff, another near default sure to come, an ambassador dying in a terrorist attack, the mass shootings under his watch, and a Congress determined to make him fail and it is impressive he has it together at all! The last thing he needs is grief about the people he has chosen to be closest to him to help him get through it all and come out the other end with a stable nation.

I understand the opposition to Susan Rice, or any other nominee for that matter, on grounds of competence or judgment or anything of that nature; however, to throw a fit because there are too many Y chromosomes is just one more sour vegetable the president should not have to eat. I have made it perfectly clear that I did not think President Obama deserved a second term, but America disagreed with me. As a nation we re-elected him for his vision of our nation, a vision which he cannot achieve without help. Now we want to criticize him for choosing the best help?

Calm down feminists; let’s not get up in arms. I’m not saying women are not qualified to work in the cabinet of the President. Hillary Clinton worked harder as Secretary of State than anyone in a generation. Women can certainly do these jobs, the fact is that is not who the President wants this time around, and that should not be an insult. There is more in question than competence for a top aide. If the ability to do the job was the only qualification there would be no such thing as a “short list”, the President would be taking applications. To be a top aide the president has to consider how respected you are in politics, both nationally and internationally. He has to know that he is on the same page as his aides, that he can trust them because he cannot micromanage them. He has to know that they will make a decision as he would. He knows what life, business, and political experience he needs to bring to the table. With the debt negotiations he has to know aide s will be willing to strike a deal–a deal he would strike–and know when to stand firm. He needs to not only trust their judgment, but agree with it. In the world of politics there are often many ways to judge a situation, none of them more wrong than the other; so the president needs to be comfortable with their outlook.

He also needs different perspectives. People who will disagree with him, challenge him, and make sure he does the best job possible. In his four cabinet nominations so far this term, the people who best fit these needs happened to be white males. If we are ever to reach true equality we cannot have a problem with this. There were certainly females and minorities who fit these needs, but not in the way the President wanted. It is not a coach’s job to use the best players; it is their job to build the best team, no matter who those players are. That is what the president has done. We elected him to build a team; it is time to stop questioning that team on grounds of gender. Would we want the president to feel like his cabinet is missing a key piece for the next 4 years just because he needed to fill some affirmative action quota? That is no way to run a country.women graph

This country–our media–has to stop digging for stories where there are none. No female or minority has any less of an opportunity than a white male. In fact, with affirmative action, they have more of an opportunity. Racism or sexism is singling someone out and treating them different on the grounds of race or gender; programs like affirmative action do this. If racism and sexism are bad for our nation they are bad the whole way around, not just in the negative. Equality is not a measurement of how many females or minorities are in the cabinet or in Congress, it is a question of whether or not anything stops them from running for Congress. The best candidates, the best employees, the best soldiers, and the best students should be the ones to earn the spot, no matter their race, religion, gender, or any other category. Equal Opportunity should mean exactly what it says.

The Supreme Court has nobody to represent the largest demographic in the nation—white protestants. Is anyone making a fuss about this? No, nor should they be. But if our highest judiciary body had no women, feminist groups would declare a revolution. We have reached a point where the white middle class male is the most discriminated against person in the nation. This is not equality. Equality does not have a bubble for race or gender on an application. Only if we reach this point do we stand by two of the most defining phrases in our history; that all men are created equal, and that we will only be judged by the content of our character. Or am I a chauvinist because men made both those statements?

43% of President Obama appointees have been female. He has been very fair and very consistent. It is amazing to me that the media has made a bigger story out of this than the fact that President Obama has just re-nominated 33 judges for federal positions, (about half of whom are women by the way) some of whom the Senate has already refused to confirm. That a story worth covering. The gender of his cabinet nominees is not. The only thing he owes to women is the same thing he owes to the rest of the nation. Run the country the way he truly believes is best. No women in the White House? No problem.

 

–Matt Young

10 January 2013

Government Solves Nothing with Fiscal Cliff Deal

To kick off the New Year I was hoping to send a fond farewell to Senator Joe Liebermann, a true statesman in an era of partisan radicals, but with the government choosing to fix nothing with their fiscal cliff deal, a goodbye send off for the retiring CT stalwart seems shallow. But ironically, there is probably no better way to write a tribute to Joe Lieberman than by highlighting the disturbing failures of our government on the fiscal cliff deal. It is really troubling to think that the biggest financial problem our nation has is not our debt or deficit, it is Congress.

President Obama and Congress were unable to make a deal to avert the fiscal cliff; Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell came to a deal that does nothing but kick the can down the road. It raises taxes on families with incomes over $450,000 per year–which we needed–but does nothing to cut spending–which we needed so much more. This failure perfectly illustrates what our nation has become. The era of moderate deal makers, like Sen. Liebermann, is now over; the fiscal cliff failure was the closing ceremony. Olympia Snow, Joe Liebermann, Richard Lugar, and Daniel Inouye were some of the last of a dying breed–the breed that governed.

In 2012 the biggest fear during elections was the primary race. State governments have so thoroughly gerrymandered districts that we have only? 35 “swing districts” left in the entire nation, down from 103 just 20 years ago. The solution to this is simple. Use the California style voting system. If every state voted to institute this system, in which redistricting is not done by a partisan legislature, and the top two vote earners go to the general election, no matter the party, we could get some political sense into Congress. For now, Congress is more worried about getting re-elected than fixing our problems.

Joe Lieberman was not. He left the Democratic Party after losing a primary because he was not extreme enough. For those of you who do not speak French, that means he was not crazy. He was a problem solver, not a party hack. The Democratic Vice Presidential candidate in 2000 and very nearly the Republican Vice Presidential candidate in 2008. I did not always agree with Sen. Liebermann, but in the age of zero compromise, he was always admirably pragmatic. The 112th Congress was not.

What better way for the most unpopular and unproductive Congress in history to give us the finger as they walk out the door than refusing to solve the fiscal cliff? This deal is an embarrassment to Congress, and an embarrassment to the United States. The rest of the world laughs at us. We are proving to our creditors that the only way we can pay our loans is with more debt. With close to 40% of the budget being borrowed and added to our children’s ransom one has to wonder how much longer this can go on. Europe scolds us because we first have to cast the beam out of our own eye.

Worst of all, China, our largest creditor, may not accept this much longer. The Chinese national television–which is essentially a statement from the Chinese Government–warned us this week that it is time to fix this. Congressmen have to stop worrying about re-election, and start fixing problems. Politically unpopular solutions, they say, have to stop being avoided. China said it best; we “simply cannot live on borrowed prosperity forever”. What will it take for Congress to get serious? When will China say enough is enough? If they cut off our line of credit we would dream for tax increases and spending cuts. Instantly we could lose 20% of our federal programs! Going off the fiscal cliff would have been better for us than the deal just reached. We need solutions, and we need them now; instead, Congress and the President insult us and continue to leverage our nation’s stability. We need more legislators like Joe Liebermann.

At least 4 times in the last four years we have had the opportunity to take a big step, first, the Republicans refused to give up revenue, and some great deals were scrapped. Now, after the election victories Democrats refuse to budge on entitlements, and deals continue to be scrapped. When President Obama could have–should have–been working on a compromise to solve the fiscal cliff he was meeting with business leaders, labor groups, bankers, and people who responded to his tweets rather than the Congressional leaders. I guess he missed the memo that his campaign is over, and he won the election.

Unfortunately this political atmosphere silences people brave enough to step outside the politically popular; people like Joe Liebermann. We need more can catchers, not can kickers. Any other person in America would have been fired for missing as many deadlines as Congress. The markets are watching, our lenders are watching, the world is watching, and hopefully we will all be watching too. But if Congress stands by watching much longer we may run out of road.

 

–Matt Young

1 January 2013

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