Posted in America, Humor, Politics, tagged America, Democrats, Fiscal Cliff, Humor, News, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Sarcasm, United States House of Representatives, United States Senate, Vice President Biden on January 1, 2013 |
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Our leaders have done it! The Senate has approved a package of tax hikes, in order to keep our country from tumbling over the “fiscal cliff.” The vote to approve the bill was 89-8. Let’s all bask in that warm bipartisan glow!
The deal was brokered by negotiations between Vice President Joe Biden and Senate Republicans. We should all take comfort that such intellectual titans were doing the heavy lifting on this crucial matter! Aren’t you relieved that brainy, detail-oriented statesmen like Biden and Senate leaders scrupulously evaluated the wording of the new taxes and their potential economic impact and the loopholes that inevitably must have been part of the deal? There is every reason to be confident that this carefully considered legislation will not produce any unintended consequences. After all, the Senate proudly calls itself “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” I bet they deliberated on this bill for a few minutes, and maybe even longer! Oh, and Harry Reid is in favor of it. What more do we need to know?
There’s lots of new taxes in this proposal: increased estate taxes, increased capital gains taxes, and increased income taxes for those people who, purely through dumb luck and undeserved good fortune, make more than $400,000 a year. What’s important, though, is that the draconian spending cuts that everyone wanted to avoid would be delayed for two months under this proposal. Thank God! That will allow the President, the Senate, and the House even more time to really roll up their sleeves and come up with meaningful spending cuts that wouldn’t be ruinous. Once the tax increases take effect, of course, our leaders will be eager to make tough spending decisions that will incur the ire of government workers and the special interest groups that are invested in the continuation of every federal program, no matter how ill-conceived, bloated, or unsuccessful that program might be. Maybe, after two months of thoughtful analysis, our leaders also might decide that what they should really do is impose more taxes on us, and further shore up the revenue side of the budget. And we can be sure, too, that our leaders won’t wait until the last minute to take action. Long before the two-month extension period expires, our leaders will have agreed upon well-reasoned spending reductions and program cuts and “revenue enhancements” that will delight every American.
Of course, this well-crafted Senate proposal still needs to be approved by the House of Representatives. With this kind of quality legislation pending, though, why would any member of the House of Representatives vote “no”?
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, Democrats, Fiscal Cliff, Politics, President Obama, Progressives, Republicans, Tea Party, United States House of Representatives, United States Senate on December 31, 2012 |
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I’ve consciously refrained from writing anything about the “fiscal cliff” because I knew anything I had to say would come out as a vitriolic screed that wouldn’t accomplish anything. But now that we’ve reached the last day before the automatic spending cuts and tax increases take effect and no deal has been struck, the time for the pointless yet heartfelt screed has come.
I say a pox on all their houses. By that I mean the White House and both Houses of Congress; I mean the President and Congress, Republican and Democrat, “progressives,” liberals, conservatives, and “tea partiers.” Congratulations to you all! You’ve maneuvered us into a situation where tax increases and spending limits that were consciously designed to be so foolish and draconian that they would force a compromise look like they might actually take effect unless a lame duck Congress and a disengaged President strike some poorly thought out, last-minute deal that the American public has no opportunity to consider or voice an opinion on — just like the deal that got us into this stupid “fiscal cliff” predicament in the first place. Your little plan about a “supercommittee” to reach a grand compromise failed, you frittered away the intervening months raising money from your pet interest groups and electioneering without doing anything to make meaningful progress on the tax policy changes and spending reductions that every conscious American knows must occur to avoid enormous impending debt problems, and now you are frantically trying to avoid the imminent, painful consequences of your years of stupid politicking, indolence, and irresponsibility.
What’s sad about this is that the President and the Republican and Democratic leadership probably all think they’ve got the other guys just where they want them; they likely think the opposing side is bound to knuckle under today and give them a huge, last-minute victory. Here’s some news for you all: we shouldn’t be governing through a process that sees us lurching endlessly from crisis to crisis. Your failures to do things like propose, debate, and pass meaningful budgets, hold hearings on spending, tax and budget proposals that allow citizens to comment and thoughtful changes to be evaluated, and engage in the standard activities of government as our Constitution contemplates reflects badly on you all. Even if an eleventh-hour deal is reached and everyone declares they won, you’ve achieved no victory. The American people have come to realize that, unfortunately, we have no real political leaders — just political hacks, buck-passers, and pipsqueaks who don’t have the sense or courage to put the interests of the country ahead of their personal political interests and the narrow perspectives of the pressure groups that contribute to their campaigns.
I know most of the people reading this will say “hey, it’s not my guy’s fault!” Supporters of President Obama will say it is the no-new-tax-pledge intransigence of the tea partiers that have brought on this ridiculous crisis; tea partiers will say it is the President’s and the Senate’s unwillingness to make meaningful spending cuts that is to blame; and everyone will point the finger elsewhere. My response is that it is everyone’s fault. In the past, when large problems have loomed, American politicians have managed to reach compromises that have allowed the country to move forward. The difference is that, in the past, our political leaders included real statesmen.
There is a reason why there was a huge fall-off in the number of Americans who voted in the most recent election. Naive notions about hope and change and broad social movements to achieve fiscal responsibility have given way to disgust and outrage at the continuation of politics as usual. The “fiscal cliff” crisis will just exacerbate those feelings. Having a disillusioned, disgusted, and angry electorate is not a good thing for our country.
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, Budget Deficit, Democrats, National Debt, Pennsylvania Avenue, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, U.S. Capitol, United States House of Representatives, United States Senate on November 7, 2012 |
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President Obama was re-elected last night, narrowly beating Mitt Romney. I congratulate the President on his victory and wish him success. In my experience, a successful President usually means we have a successful America.
Democrats kept control of the U.S. Senate, while Republicans kept control of the House of Representatives. In short, the United States is in for more divided government. After two consecutive “wave” elections, the message of this election seems to be to maintain the status quo.
Divided government is not necessarily a bad thing. The Constitution, with its complex system of checks and balances, contemplates divided government, where one man or the passions expressed in one election can’t fully control the direction of the nation. Our system — wisely, I think — contemplates compromise and collaboration to accomplish legislative goals. Our problem lately is that we haven’t had meaningful compromise, or perhaps even meaningful attempts at compromise, from the President or the two Houses of Congress. Perhaps that unwillingness to compromise was due to the rapidly shifting views of the electorate and the looming presence of the 2012 election, but with that election now one day behind us that rationale no longer exists.
With more divided government a reality, President Obama and the congressional leaders of both parties need to figure out how to compromise, because only through compromise will we be able to address the huge problems confronting our nation. We all know what those problems are: the “fiscal cliff” of self-imposed cuts and tax increases that will take effect in less than two months, trillion-dollar deficits that extend into the foreseeable future, adding to a dangerous amount of national debt, and entitlement programs that are on the road to bankruptcy unless reforms are instituted. All of these issues, and others, have reached the point of criticality.
We can no longer afford drift and inaction in the face of these challenges. It is time for President Obama and Congress to grapple with these issues and to reach the kinds of rational compromises that people of good will, but different political viewpoints, can find acceptable. It will be a big task that requires leadership, bipartisanship, and a recognition that the needs of the country must take priority over momentary political advantage.
When I left our house at 5 a.m. today for the morning walk with Penny and Kasey, I noticed that some of our neighbors of both parties who had put candidate signs in their yards had removed them already. They recognize that the election is over and it is time to move on with our lives. We need some of that same attitude at both ends of Pennsylvanian Avenue.
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Posted in Ohio, Politics, tagged Debates, Josh Mandel, Mitt Romney, Ohio, Politics, polls, Sherrod Brown, United States Senate on October 27, 2012 |
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With all of the focus on the Buckeye State in the presidential election, we Ohioans can be excused for forgetting that we will be voting on many races on November 6. For example, we’ll be deciding whether to retain incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown or elect Republican Josh Mandel instead.
Normally a Senate race is a big deal, but this year I’m not hearing anyone talk about the Brown-Mandel contest — and I work in an office where many people, from both parties, are very interested in politics. The candidates have had three debates, but only one was broadcast on TV and I don’t know anyone who watched it. I’m sure that all of the debates were fully covered in the daily newspapers, but Kish and I don’t subscribe to a daily newspaper any longer, and I haven’t seen any coverage of the debates when I’ve visited state news websites. As a result, I assume that not much happened — no gaffes, no knee-buckling zingers, and probably not much of in the way of any kind of news.
I think that means lots of people will be voting on Election Day without much information. If Ohioans know anything about the race, they know that Sherrod Brown backed the GM-Chrysler bailout. Brown mentions that whenever he can; if he could walk around carrying a large flashing billboard advertising that fact, I think he would. Mandel, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer to politics who presents himself as a fiscal conservative tax-cutter; if most Ohioans know anything about him, it is that he served in the military post-9/11. The campaign ads haven’t done much to address the information deficit, either.
An electorate with ADD is going to be unpredictable, and therefore the polls — which indicate that Brown is ahead by anywhere from one to nine points — probably don’t mean much. People will get into the voting booth and make a decision, and name and party affiliation will likely tell the tale. Fortunately for the incumbent, Brown has always been a magical name in Ohio politics. If Mandel is going to win, he’d better hope that Mitt Romney wins and has very long coattails.
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Posted in America, World, tagged Al Qaeda, Ambassador Chris Stevens, America, Benghazi, Democrats, Libya, Obama Administration, Republicans, U.S. State Department, United States Senate, World on September 28, 2012 |
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I’m glad to see reports that Senate Democrats are joining their Republican colleagues in asking the Obama Administration to answer questions about what happened in Libya that led to the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.
As the story from The Hill linked above shows, the Obama Administration’s story about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi remains vague and unfocused; today Administration aptly described the Administration position as “evolving.” The Administration seems to have backed away from its initial position that the attack was the result of unplanned demonstrations about a YouTube video, and has begun to use words like terrorism and even, apparently, al Qaeda to describe the attack. It’s long past time that full disclosure should be made, including communications between Ambassador Stevens and the U.S. State Department about security and terrorism issues in Libya and planning related to security at U.S. installations.
As the participation of Senate Democrats indicates, what happened in Benghazi is not a partisan political issue. Instead, it is a national security issue, a sovereignty issue, and also an issue of fairness to American diplomatic personnel across the world. We need to ensure that our people are adequately protected and that our government is reacting prudently and appropriately to threats and warnings. As far as I am concerned, meaningful congressional hearings into the disastrous Benghazi incident cannot begin soon enough.
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Posted in America, Ohio, Politics, tagged America, Democrats, Josh Mandel, Ohio, Politics, Republicans, Sherrod Brown, United States Senate on August 10, 2012 |
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This November Ohioans will be electing a U.S. Senator. We’ll be choosing between incumbent Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, and Republican Josh Mandel.
Sherrod Brown is a prototype Democrat. He is a forceful advocate for labor unions, and strongly supported the government bailout of GM and Chrysler — but ardently opposes bailouts of banks and touts an “end too big to fail” petition that seeks to break up the big banks. Brown has a decidedly liberal voting record and is a reliable supporter of President Obama’s legislative agenda. He’s been a figure on the Ohio political scene for years and he possesses the magical Brown name, which has given Ohio politicians a leg up on their opponents since the dawn of time.
Josh Mandel, in contrast, is a relative newcomer. He’s 34, but looks younger. Mandel is a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq, is a strong proponent of cutting federal spending and balancing the federal budget, and is the darling of many conservative pundits. He was elected to the Ohio House of Representatives in 2006 and currently serves as the state’s Treasurer — although he’s criticized for not doing much in that position while focusing on running for the Senate.
It’s an election that will present some sharp contrasts of liberal versus conservative and experience versus youth. With Republicans trying to regain control of the Senate, the race has attracted enormous attention and buckets of money from outside the state, which means we’re already seeing lots of negative ads about both candidates. The early polls show Brown in the lead.
The Brown-Mandel match-up is another instance in which Ohio — as is so often the case — may be a bellwether state. Come Election Night, the results of this contest should tell us a lot about the direction in which the country is heading.
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I’m on Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown’s email list. Lately, his emails have focused on the Disclose Act, legislation being pushed by Senate Democrats that would require non-profit groups to disclose the identity of their donors.
The bill is a response of sorts to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, which struck down limits on independent spending by corporations and unions. Senator Brown’s most recent email, sent Saturday afternoon, says that such special interest money is having a “distorting effect” on elections and that the “flood” of money is “is threatening to wash away the voice of America’s middle class.” (Of course, because we don’t know the identity of the donors to these groups, we obviously don’t know for sure whether those donors are members of the middle class or not.) Not surprisingly, Senator Brown views all of this through the lens of his own experience; if you read his emails, they all discuss, in great detail, how much groups opposing his reelection are spending on that race.
What’s of interest to me is not the merits of Citizens United, or the merits of campaign finance reform generally. Instead, I find it curious that the Senate seems capable of debating and acting on issues like the DISCLOSE Act, but not on the issues that are of real import to Americans given our current predicament — like passing a budget, or dealing with our debt problems, or figuring out how to get our economy out of the doldrums in which it has been mired for four years.
Why is the DISCLOSE Act more worthy of the attention of the Senate than legislation that addresses our ongoing economic problems? Because political spending affects Senators, of course, and therefore legislation that addresses political spending must necessarily be their top priority. It’s a good example of how the interests of Senators vary from the interests of their constituents. If you asked Americans — middle class or otherwise — what topics the Senate should be focused on these days, how far down the priority list do you think you would need to go before your reached Citizens United and campaign finance reform?
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, Cherokee, Elizabeth Warren, Massachusetts, Native Americans, Politics, Public Relations, race, Race in America, United States Senate on May 31, 2012 |
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Any public relations professional worth her salt will tell you: when you are dealing with an unfavorable news story — one that you know is going to have a negative impact — the best approach is to get ahead of the story, get all of the information out, and at least avoid the possibility that the story becomes a running, multi-day issue. Lance the boil, drain the pus, and move on.
Elizabeth Warren’s campaign must not employ a public relations person. If it does, she isn’t very good at her job — because the story of Warren’s alleged Cherokee ancestry has become a never-ending story in Warren’s campaign for election to the U.S. Senate from Massachusetts. Every day, seemingly, there is some new revelation that puts Warren on the defensive, interferes with her intended “message,” and distracts from the issues she thinks are important.
On Wednesday, for example, Warren acknowledged for the first time that two law schools that identified her as Native American did so because she identified herself as such, based on her understanding of “family lore.” Her admission is just the latest in a series of statements about the issue — some of which arguably are inconsistent — that have just encouraged the press to dig ever deeper into the history of Warren’s employment, whether she identified herself as Native American, and whether there is any proof of actual Cherokee ancestry in her family tree.
I don’t think a candidate’s race, or self-reported minority status, has anything to do with fitness to serve as a U.S. Senator. On the other hand, I think a candidate’s truthfulness, credibility, and ability to deal with a crisis are relevant — and Warren seems to be falling short in all of those categories. The Native American story has dominated the headlines for a month now, and for that Warren has only herself to blame. Her statements and partial disclosures have a whiff of embarrassed shiftiness about them that have made a minor issue into a major one and, at the same time, made her look evasive and inept. Although her race shouldn’t affect a voter’s decision about her, her apparent inability to give a satisfactory explanation of her actions reasonably could.
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, Indiana, Politics, President Carter, Republicans, Richard Lugar, Richard Mourdock, United States Senate on May 8, 2012 |
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In our neighboring state to the west, Indiana voters have decided that Senator Richard Lugar has served long enough. The networks are calling his primary race and have concluded that he will lose to fellow Republican Richard Mourdock.
I don’t blame Indiana voters for giving the 80-year-old Lugar the boot. He has served in the Senate for 36 years — six terms in all — which means he has been in the Senate since Jimmy Carter was President and I was in college. Can anyone identify any great legislative accomplishments or extraordinary statesmanlike achievements by Lugar during that 36-year period? I’d say he has served long enough.
I’m not sure that term limits are the answer, but I see no value in having legislators serve in Congress for more than a third of a century. They inevitably focus more on what people are saying in Washington, D.C. than what their constituents are saying back home. In Lugar’s case, he hadn’t even lived in Indiana since 1977. How could he possibly reflect the views and values of Indiana voters under such circumstances?
Lugar’s loss my just be another sign of a strong anti-incumbent mood in the heartland this election year. American voters seem to be fed up with career politicians who have sat ineffectively by while the country has moved off on the wrong track. When that happens, the logical recourse is to throw the bums out.
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Posted in America, Ohio, Politics, tagged America, Campaign contributions, Josh Mandel, Money, Ohio, political campaigns, Political contributions, Politics, Sherrod Brown, United States Senate on April 28, 2012 |
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We’ve got a hot U.S. Senate race in Ohio this year: incumbent Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, is looking to fend off the challenge of Republican Josh Mandel.
I’ll write more about the race as we get closer to the election. For now, I’ll just say that I’m mystified by the tactics of the Brown campaign. I get their e-mails constantly, and they all are about money. How much money Mandel is raising, how much money “special interests” are contributing to support Mandel’s candidacy, how many TV ads have been purchased as a result of the money contributed to the Mandel campaign, and how much money the Brown campaign needs to make up for the cash landslide that is tumbling into Ohio.
Money, money, money! Obviously, the Brown campaign believes that the constant drumbeat of news about what donors have contributed to Mandel’s campaign will spur me to open my checkbook, again and again, to give money to Sherrod Brown. My question is: why do they think that is what will happen? Isn’t it equally plausible that I’ll just get sick to death of being hit up for money and immediately delete their e-mails, unread? (After all, we’re still six months away from the election — how many more money-grubbing e-mails do they think I can bear?) Or that I’ll just give up because the money lead for the Mandel campaign apparently is insurmountable? Or that I’ll conclude that the Brown campaign doesn’t care about anything except cold, hard cash?
Political campaigns used to be about candidates, issues, speeches and rallies, now they are about money, money, and more money. We are all the poorer for this.
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President Obama has indicated that his 2012 re-election campaign will focus on a “do-nothing” Congress. Now a Washington Times analysis finds that 2011 was, in fact, one of the most inactive congressional years ever. Congress passed only 80 bills — the fewest since 1947, when such records first began being kept — and many of those bills were non-substantive. The House was far more active than the Senate, which experienced the most futile, unproductive legislative year ever.
I don’t think you can assess the performance of a Congress by simply counting how many new laws were enacted. Quality, not quantity, should be the measuring rod. Yet even by that measure, our Congress has been a colossal failure. Last year saw the United States lose its AAA credit rating and rack up enormous deficits that are adding to our already staggering national debt. How did our legislative leaders respond? They created an ad hoc “supercommittee” that allowed them to punt on the issue, the “supercommittee” couldn’t reach agreement, and as a result another year slid by without anything meaningful being done to address our headlong rush to fiscal ruin.
No rational person can defend the pathetic performance of our Congress. I’m not sure, however, that President Obama stands to benefit much by pointing out how little has been accomplished. He’s the leader of the government, after all, and he ran in 2008 as someone who could bring people together. That hasn’t happened. Emphasizing that Congress is hopelessly deadlocked and inert, while true, just reflects poorly on President Obama’s leadership abilities. He hasn’t been able to forge a consensus, build support in the country as a whole, or find an alternate way to deal with urgent problems like the debt. If President Obama is just going to throw up his hands, why should we return him to office?
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Posted in America, Ohio, Politics, tagged 2012 Election, America, Josh Mandel, Ohio, Politics, Senator Ben Nelson, Sherrod Brown, United States Senate on January 2, 2012 |
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Although everyone will be focusing on the presidential election come 2012, the battle for the majority in the Senate will be at least as interesting.
In 2011, a surprising number of Senators announced they would not run for re-election. The last was Senator Ben Nelson — the Nebraska Senator who was criticized, here and elsewhere, for shabby politicking in connection with the passage of the “health care reform” legislation. In all, seven Democratic Senators will be retiring, along with two Republicans. The retirement decisions make the current Democratic majority in the Senate particularly perilous, because Democrats are defending 23 seats this election cycle, compared to only 10 Republican seats that are up for challenge.
The Washington Post‘s political blog, The Fix, rates the most interesting 2012 Senate races, and one of its top 10 is incumbent Democratic Senator Sherrod Brown’s battle to win reelection against the apparent Republican challenger, State Treasurer Josh Mandel. Ohio is always a bellwether, and the race between Brown and Mandel may tell us a lot about which way the country is leaning.
One thing is certain: there will be a number of newcomers in the Senate in 2013. This will be a good thing, because the current Senate has been an embarrassing, inert body that has virtually no accomplishments to its name.
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Tonight all of the debt ceiling drama is in the House of Representatives, where Speaker John Boehner is hoping to round up enough bills to pass his proposal to increase the debt ceiling and avoid a default.
Meanwhile, what’s happening in the Senate? Nothing. The house that likes to call itself “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body” has become the World’s Greatest Do-Nothing Body. They wait, criticize the House of Representatives, try to dodge any responsibility or avoid taking any position that might cause them any kind of political pain, and spend their time pondering political maneuvering at the expense of the good of the country. Although my inclinations are to favor budget-cutting to get us to fiscal sanity, I think you would be as disappointed in the performance of the majority-Democrat Senate if you were a hard-core progressive. Why haven’t they independently debated and passed the Senate solution to the problem? Because they don’t want to commit to anything.
Who knows what will happen with the Boehner plan, or whether our fractured, grossly dysfunctional and leaderless government will allow our country to suffer a needless, ruinous, and impoverishing default. One thing is clear, however: it is hard to imagine a more gutless, craven performance than we have seen from the Senate during this entire debt ceiling issue. They have been a pathetic embarrassment to the concept of responsible representative government.
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, Budget Deficit, Congress, Debt Ceiling, Fan Dances, Federal Spending, House Republicans, Politics, President Obama, United States Senate on July 21, 2011 |
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A week has gone by, the August 2 default deadline creeps ever nearer, and still the antic debt ceiling political dance continues.
It’s like an old fan dance, where the flashing fans of the dancer seek to tantalize while hiding what lies beneath. The Senate has contributed the ill-defined “Gang of Six” proposal. The House Republicans passed “cut, cap, and balance.” President Obama continues to insist on a “balanced approach.” Everybody uses every opportunity to trumpet that everybody else is behaving abominably and making outrageous proposals. And the latest report is that the President is sitting down with House Republicans to try to cut a deal.
Is real progress being made? Who knows? Appallingly, everything is done behind closed doors, with no public input. How can anyone be comfortable with politicians making deals in private on this huge issue? And most of the purported “savings” and “cuts” and “revenue enhancements” seem to be vague, generic promises to delegate the task of making actual changes to the same congressional committees that have, for years, proven themselves unable to restrain spending, exercise prudence, and govern responsibly.
I’m not going to be distracted by the waving fans. I want this embarrassing dance to produce some real changes to how things are done.
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Posted in America, Politics, tagged America, Congress, Democrats, economy, Harry Reid, john boehner, Mitch McConnell, Nancy Pelosi, Politics, recession, Republicans, United States House of Representatives, United States Senate on June 16, 2011 |
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Congressional disclosure forms were released yesterday and they show that our elected public servants are doing very well, indeed.
The wealth in Congress knows no party-line boundaries; Republicans and Democrats alike are doing well. According to the reports, the Minority Leader and Majority Leader in the Senate are both multimillionaires who saw their wealth rise in 2010. So did the the Speaker of the House and the House Minority Leader. Other Members of Congress reported on gifts they received and, in one case, a member of Congress paid herself some hefty interest on a loan she made to her own campaign committee.
There are exceptions, of course, and I am not suggesting that only paupers should be elected to the Senate and the House of Representatives. But when Americans wonder why Members of Congress, at times, seem out of touch with bread-and-butter issues like jobs and housing prices, they might do well to reflect on the vast personal wealth in Congress and the deferential and preferential treatment our elected representatives receive as a matter of course. It’s easy to downplay the effect of high gasoline prices or unsold homes in middle-class neighborhoods if you have millions of dollars in personal investments to reflect upon as a fellow Senator gives you a ride on her private jet.
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