Tag Archives: Congress

A Suggestion for Compromise on the Fiscal Cliff

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In a perfect political world, each side gets what it wants.  Since that aint the world we live in, let’s work with what we got.

  1. Dems get their tax increases.  This shouldn’t even be negotiable.  The Bush tax cuts were woefully unproductive at promoting growth, but “amaaaaaaazing” at tackling on billions in new debt.
  2. Republicans get to raise the age of Medicare to 67.  People are living and working longer.  Until our culture is one that values rest, our policies address it in a language it understands.

But here’s the catch:  In exchange for raising the age to 67, Dems get to invest in a National health and wellness program.  The Federal task force would work with Governors, Mayors, and local leaders to create a reasonable contract with state-centered targets.  We could have a quarterly public evaluation to provide accountability and keep the issue fresh — something like a national weigh-in for states.

The rationale is this:  A government is not a business.  Unlike a business, it has a responsibility to promote and protect the public welfare.  But doing that isn’t free, and government must also be prudent in how it spends.  This compromise, then, is an investment in both economic and public health.

The potential outcome is that we accept a national commitment — not one sponsored by independent organizations or non-state actors — a national one that unites us around the goal of reducing the number of incidences of avoidable diseases.

My opposition might dismiss this suggestion as too big a reach, or too intrusive a job for government.  To them, my reply is:  get over it.  Government will be a part of your life for as long as you live.  Might as well use it to help you live longer and healthier, so you can make more money — that it doesn’t have to use to care for you.

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Election 2012: *points and snickers*

You get to make this face when you’ve trounced your opponent, and he never saw it coming.

Since President Obama’s reelection Tuesday night, Republicans’ reflections on their embarrassing loss, ironically, have been a reflection of the exact reasons why they lost. In the aftermath, the $400,000,000 question is this: Who lost the election? Conservamoderate Mitt Romney or the Party itself?

First, I feel compelled to disabuse the premise. Barack Obama won the Presidential election. His campaign reached out to the people it needed to reach, and The People (I use this term broadly because, literally, it was every group except white men) responded. And you have to appreciate that they didn’t have to. I learned Wednesday night that one of my good friends sat it out this election. “Just not feelin politics right now,” he said. So folks could have stayed home, could’ve checked out altogether, but they didn’t. In fact, in some states, voters showed up in even greater numbers than in 2008. Barack Obama won 50.5% of the popular vote, compared to Mitt Romney’s 48% (wouldn’t it have been poetic justice if that figure was 47%?). Make no mistake, President Obama wasn’t the winner by default. He got chose.

Toward the end of the campaign, amid sure signs of an improving economy and mounting evidence of the President’s consistently rational and well-intentioned leadership, GOP narratives about the President’s “failures” began to unravel. It took just under 4 years to expose the flaws in today’s Grand Old Party and about 3 weeks after the first debate to expose Mitt Romney as a fraud. In the end, I think it was clear that the Republican Party, embodied in the candidate it nominated for President, was out of touch and unfit to occupy the Oval Office.

So, who lost the election? Both Romney and Republicans did. On Wednesday, Bill O’Reilly sagely opined that the Tea Party backed Senator from Florida, Marco Rubio, would have been the better candidate to defeat Barack Obama, proving that they don’t get it what had happened the night before. Republicans still think they can simply match minority for minority and no one will be the wiser. Run Rubio and Latinos won’t notice that DREAMers can pay in-state tuition for college but still won’t have access to affordable healthcare. Or, run Susana Martinez and women won’t notice that she represents a party who wishes to end their right to choose, but give equal protection rights to their unborn fetuses. Republicans have a policy problem, and trotting out token minorities to champion bad policies won’t make the policies themselves less bad.

Mitt Romney never convincingly stood up to his party’s nonsense. Instead he was opportunist about it, and reveled in misleading low information voters with base tactics. For Romney, if it meant he would win 50.1% of the electorate, the end would justify the means. Yet, social issues (which are also economic issues, for the record) alone didn’t spell Romney’s demise. President Obama also defeated conservative budgetary philosophy by winning the argument on taxes and “fairness*.” The writing on the wall read that “job creators” prospered in this environment, but they aint create no jobs. In terms of domestic economic policy, Mitt Romney’s economic plan offered more of the same. There was no bold new idea, and changing things back to the way they were before they caused calamity isn’t exactly “change” as I understand it.

Thing is, President Obama’s detractors have always underestimated him. They dismiss him as a novelty deliverer of pretty speeches with few real accomplishments. But in the end, it was they who were undone by the soft bigotry of low expectations. It was Republicans who were exposed as one-dimensional, race-baiting, and small-minded. And Americans soundly rejected that vision for our future. Republicans lost both on demographics and on policy. Their nostalgia for the ‘good old days’ that never were engendered them to a view of the world that just isn’t real. Americans are not all Christian, and we’re not all straight, we don’t all have disposable income or access to good schools, and we don’t all live and die by the same traditions. But we all want the same thing: to be validated by our government, and visible to the people who represent us. If Republicans intend to be a relevent party going forward, they have to do more than practice the aesthetics of diversity. The People need substance too.

Finally, I don’t usually like to gloat because everybody with the courage to play, loses at some point. But there are times when winning really is the sweetest revenge. Indeed, revenge for the foul and failed campaign that Republicans ran this election year warrants a little irreverence for their discomfort at this trying time. I promise not to wallow in their misery. But I will share this hilarious tumblr posting, and delight in it.

This is for the John Sununus and the New Gingriches and the Donald Trumps of the campaign. Click here and enjoy, if you can: White People Mourning Romney**

*I guess Occupy Wall Street wasn’t just a gathering of pissed off hippies after all, eh?

**Seriously, there were, like, NO non-white people at that victory rally in Boston. It is what it is.


The Price of Entertainment

Re-redistributing the Wealth.

In recent months, I’ve been branded a “serious” person.  I suppose it’s because, in spite of myself, I get turned on by big words and political debates.  I watch documentaries about World Wars and the commercialization of food — I use phrases like “the commercialization of food.”  I think I can comfortably assume that when folks characterize someone as “serious,” they do so with little or no ill-intention.  They mean to distinguish you from the masses for whom everyday life out in the world is serious enough — the people who choose not to compound their personal problems with foreign peoples’ shit or U.S. Congressional back and forth over some arbitrary issue.  Life is hard out here, y’all.  And folks really just wanna be entertained.

But entertainment in lieu of information comes with a hefty price tag.    If we were capable of both, I’d bypass my soapbox  and turn to The Bachelorette to keep up with pop culture.  But we aren’t capable of both.  How else do you account for Flavor of Love?  Soulja Boy?  Kim Kardashian?  And what the fuck is a Bad Girls Club?  What’s so special about them that they get to be on tv?  Who are these hoes    “bad girls”?

I firmly believe that life and art are symbiotically related; they feed off one another, for better or for worse.    There was a time when artistry was defined by the voice it gave to the reality its artists lived.  Jazz from Black musicians during the 40s was syncopated rebellion against inequality and discrimination, and upbeat swing that might lead you to believe shit was actually cool for folks.  Likewise, the condition of urban life in some of America’s best known cities gave birth to hip hop music and hip hop culture.  Brothas and sistas rapped about selling dope, and about “gang banging” to survive and to establish some semblance of family and protection, because this was the life they knew — the only life they knew.  There are some contemporary moments that hearken back to that era, too.  On Say Hello from the American Gangster album, Jay-Z’s like:

 We aint thugs for the sake of just bein thugs/nobody do that where we grew at, nigga duh/the poverty line we not above, so out come the mask and gloves cause we aint feelin the love/ we aint doin crime for the sake of doin crimes/ we movin dimes cause we aint doin fine/one outta three of us is locked up doin time/you know what that type of shit can do to a nigga’s mind…

There was once substance in what also entertained us.  And where there was substance, there existed the potential for information and education.  It appears that what drives us now is our need to be entertained.  We live to see manufactured drama unfold, to watch cats shuck and jive for our limited attention spans.  “Reality” tv shows, for example, aren’t even shows about real people anymore.  Their casts are now chock full of caricatures of personalities, which must include:  the promiscuous gay guy; the kinda sorta lesbian that will do it to a dude given the right vodka proof; the bitch; the Black; the loose white girl; the one who’s a little off and might have some undealt-with mental/emotional situations, and the white boy (who is either country-boy-virginal, or frat-boy-asshole — there are no in betweens in reality tv).  This isn’t the real world; it’s a real-type world created for our amusement.

Last week, someone tweeted this Daily Show clip of Don Lemon lamenting that the news network he reports for — the “most trusted name in news” —  severely shorts its trustworthiness with attempts to entertain intermingled with its job to inform.

I get Lemon’s irritation.  Because it’s all fun and games until you get hoodwinked by the shuck and jive.  And that’s the price we pay.  We get exhausted at the notion of learning something new, and disenchanted with intellectual curiosity.  We get so wrapped up in what happens in fake life that we can barely come up for air when real life lays in the balance.  I’m a political scientist, and I have a fetish for learning so I admit to being a bit biased.  However, I don’t have to be either of those things to notice that what I don’t know, can most certainly hurt me.

I wrote last week about the debt ceiling debate that had been unnecessarily holding our economy hostage.  Let me be clearer about that:  it was Republicans holding the economy hostage, and it was a Republican ideologically-oriented “deal” that was passed to avert another economic disaster.  It’s important to know this because the economic forecast as a result of the passage of the “bipartisan” deal is cloudy than a muthafucka.  Yesterday, the markets plummeted in reaction, and today our nation sits at the precipice of recession 2.0.  If and when the shit hits the fan is too late to remember that you voted for the people who made these decisions.  Or that you didn’t vote for the people who would have made different ones (which, in essence, was a vote for your opposition).

Either way, the lesson going forward should be:  you can watch what happens live, but you must also watch what happens — to our lives — when our collective desire for a court jester supersedes our collective desire to know shit.


The Debt Ceiling: Manufactured Chaos

Ideology:  a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture; b: a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture; c: the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program.  In other words, one’s personal and/or political ideology is defined by her beliefs about what she thinks will allow society to function better.

In recent years, politicians and pundits have cautioned us against reverting to our respective ideological corners, and refusing to engage in compromise.  They say that no one wins when we are incapable of working together for the collective good, and I tend to agree with this assertion.  Where these same people err, however, is in affirming the idea that the ends of each ideological spectrum are equally detrimental to the continued prosperity of “the American people.”

The debt ceiling “crisis” which looms over the American economy like a dark and foreboding cloud represents clearly the ideological divide that has the American political system stuck in neutral, and slipping steadily into reverse.  But this chasm isn’t “new.”  It started roughly 30 yeas ago with  the Reagan administration (which raised the debt ceiling, by the way, more than a dozen times without having to check its conservatism at the door).  Reagan and his neoconservative progeny relentlessly imposed on the populace the idea that government was big and bad and pretty unnecessary.  Inevitably, government would drain you of your freedoms — all of them.   In their view, the government and those who were of the government would raise your taxes year after year and you would have nothing to show for it.  Government would destroy your ability to achieve the American dream.

Indeed, with expansive government control, you’d be unfairly subjected to a public school system, a national postal service, an ambulance or fire truck should you ever have the need, an agency that ensures your burgers don’t routinely come with lettuce, tomatoes, and e.coli.  It provides for an environmental protection agency which ensures that Business X can’t dump its toxic waste where you fish, and a national infrastructure that isn’t bursting at the seems, or crumbling beneath the surface…actually, scratch that one.  But, you understand the point.  Obviously, this is merely a minor difference in perspective.

Except that it isn’t minor at all.  As the Pew Racial Wealth Gap Study recently pointed out, the economic policies largely championed by anti-government lawmakers in the last 25 years have severely affected the livelihoods of Americans who have been well-served by the “intrusive” hand of government.  Because without it, persons of those groups remained both separate and perpetually unequal.  And here is where the current ideological divide got its start:  it was in the audacity of minorities to want to be equal, to want access to opportunity.

But for folks, granting access to the outsiders resulted in their own loss.  They misinterpreted Civil Rights as minority rights or Black rights or poor rights or women’s rights — namely, everyone’s rights except for theirs.  It was terrifying for the powers-that-be to acquiesce to the persistent erosion of their own power — driven by “big government.”

Enter 2011 party politics, and the debt ceiling debate.  There is no real debate, no real crisis of which to speak.  Congressional Republicans are holding up a routine practice for the sole purpose of political posturing — so that they can finally cut government spending (which is a legitimate issue) by gutting programs designed to aid the nation’s most vulnerable, and its middle class alike.  Indeed, one side of the aisle still believes in expanding the opportunity to achieve the American dream; on the other side, if you don’t already have it, or plan to inherit it, then you shit outta luck.

And sadly, poor or middle class people concerned with “runaway government passing on debt to their children and grandchildren” have bought into a narrative that serves no one’s interests, unless they are wealthy ones.  Make no mistake about it, this is class warfare.  The problem is that many Americans unfortunately are disillusioned about which class they actually are in.

In the last few days, I learned about the current Governor of North Carolina, Bev Perdue.  North Carolina has traditionally been a politically divided state, sometimes led by a Democratic Governor, but legislatively controlled by Republicans.  In this ruinous Tea Party era, Governor Perdue has vetoed Republican bills that seek to roll back protections on abortion, off-shore oil drilling, jury awards in medical malpractice suits, environmental restrictions, and bills which give businesses more freedom to deny benefits to unemployed workers.  Now, because her state legislature is Republican, nearly all Governor Perdue’s vetoes have been overturned.  But her purpose in vetoing these bills hasn’t been to win.  No, Governor Perdue wants to go on record having made a clear distinction about where she stood when North Carolina made a U-turn on progress.

I suspect that if no deal is reached in the debt ceiling debacle, and the country’s economy plummets into default, at least I’ll know where my President stood.  And who stood against him.

Pay.  Attention.