Political Nutz

Observations on the pathetic state of American politics

Monthly Archives: January 2011

“We, the Corporations….”

That’s how the recent House recitation of the U.S. Constitution might have begun.  I note that it’s the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Citizen’s United decision, giving corporations the status of people and, as President Obama noted, opened “the flood gates for special interests” in U.S. elections.  The decision almost certainly guarantees Republican majorities in congress forever, making America effectively a one-party state.

Advertisements

CEOs: Look at the Bottom Line, Stop Whining

Every time you see a Republican congressman or a big corporation CEO on TV, they are whining about the terrible U.S. corporate tax burden, the onerous federal regulations and the horrifying uncertainty of the economy.  These guys need to look at corporate balance sheets and stock prices. As Jeff Reeves  points out in his Market Watch piece, “How Obama Helped Fuel a Wall Street Boom,” market sectors like oil, financials, health care and even housing are thriving over the past two years. Home builder D.R. Horton‘s stock is up 210%,  Marathon Oil +60%, United Health plus 70%, Wells Fargo up 138%…  The list goes on and on. Corporate profits hit a record $1.66 trillion in the 3rd quarter of last year alone.  As Mr. Reeves notes:

whether you think the market has been booming in spite of Obama’s leadership or because of it, the numbers show it has been a very good two years for investors of all stripes.

I’m fine if Obama critics don’t want to give him or the Democrats any credit for this massive two-yea run up in profits and market value. But they should stop whining and asking for still more tax breaks and deregulation.

 

The President Makes another Turn to the Right

The President’s Wall Street Journal article on reforming the U.S. regulatory system is another big right turn in Mr. Obama’s presidency. The rhetoric sounds good on the surface and I’m sure CEO’s around the country are pleased as punch.  But I’m sorry: really, it’s a goofy article with hollow arguments.  The President repeats the GOP mantra that regulation is killing innovation and economic growth.  Mr. Obama needs to read some of the other pages of the Journal; he might notice that America’s mega corporations are thriving and are awash in record profits. What innovations does he think we’re all missing?  That he couldn’t think of any is evidenced by his saccharin example:

“For instance, the FDA has long considered saccharin, the artificial sweetener, safe for people to consume. Yet for years, the EPA made companies treat saccharin like other dangerous chemicals. Well, if it goes in your coffee, it is not hazardous waste. The EPA wisely eliminated this rule last month.”

So has removing saccharin from the hazardous substances list inspired innovations and ignited a boom in hiring?  And later he writes about getting input from “experts, businesses and ordinary citizens.” What are the chances anybody who doesn’t wear a starched white shirt to work will have any influence on corporate regulation?

It pains me to see the President writing in the same newspaper that so often features the likes of Rove, Limbaugh and Palin. Maybe the White House will open a branch on Wall Street.  And maybe the Democrats will nominate someone else to run in 2012 because Obama will be the Republican candidate.

Boehner’s Classless Rejection

Can someone remind Representative John Boehner that he’s the “vice vice-president,” just two steps removed from being leader of the free world?  His rejection of the White House invite to attend the state dinner for Chinese President Hu Jintao is just crass.  Lefty web sites are having a good time joking about the non-smoking policy and inadequate booze.  But seriously, Mr. Boehner is a world figure now, not just a weepy, angry member of the House. Sure, no substantive discussions take place at these events but it is important to show some sense of courtesy and respect for international leaders and American colleagues.  Oh, I forgot… he’s a leader of the Grand Obstruction Party; they just say “No” to everything.

Why Private Health Insurance Doesn’t Work

Paul Krugman states it simply:

  • insurance companies devote large resources to determining who really needs health care, so as not to provide it [“Health Care Basics,” NYTimes.com].

He also points out that the combination of Medicare, Medicaid and VA benefits already account for nearly 70% of American’s medical bills, including of course well-to-do Republican Congressmen who have vowed to do away with health coverage for the rest of America.

I was pleased to see a letter in the Knoxville News echoing an opinion I’ve shared several times with my do-nothing Representative, Dave Reichert:

  • Before any member of Congress votes to repeal the 2009 legislation, they should give up their government health care and buy insurance as individuals for themselves and their families and find out what the reality is out here for us [“Congress Should Speed Up HealthCare Reform,” KnoxNews.com]

Electronic Border Fence Cancelled: Billions Saved

Every once in a while a ray of hope shines out of Washington, DC. The Department of Homeland Security today officially cancelled the Boeing-built electronic border surveillance system, a decision that will avoid a projected $50 billion expenditure.  The “fence” has been ineffective beginning with the first 2007 prototypes. Maybe Secretary Naplitano’s actions will inspire folks at the Defense Department to cancel at least some of their useless, costly projects.

Republican Hypocrisy and the Deficit

The dirty little secret of American politics in recent decades is that the Republicans are atrocious when it comes to U.S. federal spending – and far worse than the Democrats have been. But the GOP’s guilt runs deeper still, for unlike the Democrats, who don’t even bother hiding their fascist-socialist aims, the GOP poses publicly as the party of “limited government.” Facts refute them. The Republicans are contemptible hypocrites.

So writes Richard M. Salsman in his Forbes blog posting: “New Congress, Same Old Leviathan.”  See, it turns out that in the fifteen years following Bill Clinton’s famous 1996 “The era of big government is over” speech, GOP majority Congresses spent some $35.2 trillion… more than double what was spent in the prior 15-year period when Congress was controlled by the Democrats. In the first Bush term alone, federal spending increased by 19.2%.  The only periods of remotely similar jumps in federal spending occurred in the Bush I and Nixon administrations.   Hmmm!

The President Takes the High Ground

President Obama’s speech at the memorial for the Tucson shooting victims has received nearly universal praise by pundits from both the left and right.  And deservedly so.  Even Rich Lowry of The National Review stated that “President Obama turned in a magnificent performance. This was a non-accusatory, genuinely civil, case for civility, in stark contrast to what we’ve read and heard over the last few days.”

 The President remembered the deceased and lauded the heroes.  And challenged the nation to “do better.”  The message was one filled with empathy, grief, and hope.  The performance is a profound contrast to Sarah Palin‘s defensive, pathetic and crass “it’s all about me” rant of earlier in the day. Days like this remind me why I’m glad Mr. Obama is President and why Sarah Palin must never be.

Ms. Palin: Over the Top and Off the Mark–Again

Sarah Palin‘s hyperbolized denunciation [“Palin Call Criticism ‘Blood Libel‘”; NewYorkTimes.com] of accusations that right-wing rhetoric somehow contributed to the tragic shooting in Tuscon is another example of her inability to find any middle ground.  It echoes George Bush’s “You’re either for us or agin us.”  Commentator Robert Wright [“First Comes Fear“; NY Times.com] gets it right when he notes the danger in the incessant message that those who don’t agree with us are a fearful “enemy” and part of some “conspiracy.”

Ms. Palin can’t have it both ways.  She insists each individual is responsible for her own actions– except her.  If she doesn’t want devotees to do something what’s the purpose of her incendiary rants?  She and others like Mr. Beck characterize the “other side” not simply as neighbors with different political opinions but as dangerous aliens to be feared and eliminated.

Bipartainship and cooperation won’t happen as long our political leaders insist that contrary views are dangerous and must be quashed.  If the Right really wants compromise from the Left they need to stop using hate speech and veiled threats to inspire their followers.

Growing Income Inequality Explained

The January/February issue of Foreign Affairs serves up an excellent summary of the studies of political scientists Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson and their explanation of the historic and still growing income gulf between the super wealthy and the rest of us.  The article is worth reading:

Hacker and Pierson’s book  is entitled Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–And Turned its Back on the Rest of Us.