Tag Archives: George W. Bush

This is Fiscal Responsibility?

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The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a defense authorization bill to spend $690 billion dollars yesterday. That’s odd because they still haven’t given themselves permission to raise the debt limit to pay for the stuff that they already agreed to buy in the past. That’s funny because the Republican’s are screaming about how bad the deficit is, and yet they are still signing checks that will overdraw their account. That’s funny because they are increasing spending more on defense than the Obama administration requested. It’s funny because the Republicans are the ones who say that we need to balance the books by cutting spending without even considering doing anything to bring in more money.

Republicans talk about how sacrifice is needed to solve our debt problem. That’s funny because so far the only people who they have expected to sacrifice are citizens who traditionally don’t vote for them; they still want their pet projects and their base to keep receiving goodies from the government.

The Republicans claim it is the President and the Democrats who are playing politics around the deficit.  That’s funny because  they are the ones holding the solvency of the U.S. hostage to their own special interests. That’s funny because they are the ones who attached provisions to this $690 Billion bill to prevent us from dealing with Guantanamo detainees in a way consistent with our constitution and in a way that is consistent with the liberties for which we fight wars. That’s funny because they have also attached a provision that prevents us from reducing the number of nuclear weapons we have.

The Republicans insist that the only way to fix the deficit is to make people pay more for their healthcare, and they say the government should subsidize private health insurance rather than be in the business of providing healthcare. That’s funny because this bill also reduced the amount that the Secretary of Defense suggested was the military’s fair share to pay for its own government-provided healthcare costs.

Many Republicans complained that Obama did not flex our military muscle adequately to support the Libyan rebels. It’s odd that they also passed a bill to prohibit the Commander in Chief to use any money to put ground troops in Libya. It’s funny that they want to give the military more money, but they don’t actually want our president to be able to use it as Commander in Chief. That’s funny because the last president the Republicans gave this country started two wars for very dubious reasons.

So why am I not laughing?

Yet it is the Republicans who claim to be fiscally responsible, and the Tea Party elected them to eliminate political games in Washington.  Now, that’s funny!

Unpopularity Vote

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Speaking recently with a Tea-Party leaning Republican, I was struck by the fact this person didn’t like John McCain or George W. Bush.  In fact I’m not sure they’ve liked anybody running for President since Reagan. I often hear people talk about how they don’t like the candidates that our two parties offer up. It seems to be more and more common for people to vote “no” against a candidate than to vote “yes” for a candidate.

For several election cycles we’ve heard how hard it was going to be for incumbents because so many people were furious with Washington, their state capitol, of city hall. Politics has perfected the art of making opponents look bad, and this has bled over into new media. To paraphrase an old proverb: Scandals and rumors ricochet around the world before real news can get its boots on.

As I reflect back on my own attitude towards people who I have voted for, I can say I have really liked all but one person who I voted for president (Walter Mondale, who later I have learned to respect more than I did at the time I voted for him). I truly do believe that it is important for us as a society to figure out a way to vote for people that we would like to serve in office. That seems sort of obvious, but the problem is of course the dominant parties. We are afraid of wasting our vote because then the worse of two evils might win.

There are proposals to change the voting method in order to encourage people to vote for who they really like best, and maybe that’s what it would take. But I also believe that if voters would take their responsibility seriously and do their homework, they might find that there is a candidate among the two major parties that on balance they do like. It’s not about finding the person who agrees with you on every single issue. It is about finding a person who is smart, capable, dedicated to what’s best for America, and has a similar world view as you do.

Now is the time for voters to begin doing their homework. Before a party nominates a candidate, then anything is possible. Now is the time to seek out a good candidate and to get behind that person. This is how our system is supposed to work, and if it’s not working, then we need to look to ourselves to begin the process of fixing it.

Republican Army of the Gullible

Republican Party (United States)

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Here’s the good news: the number of birthers (people who believe that Barak Obama wasn’t born in the U.S.A.) has declined from 20% to only 10% of the population following the release of Obama’s long form birth certificate.

Here’s the bad news: the number of people who believe that Osama bin Laden is still alive is sitting at 20% of the population.

So what’s going on here. Why do so many people believe things that facts show are false? Many theories abound. Maybe it’s part of the wave of the internet–where anyone can broadcast whatever bogus information they want. Maybe it’s because people are so suspicious of authority. Maybe it reflects a decline in public education.

I think there are many reasons, but I believe that one of the primary reasons has to do with politics, plain and simple. After losing the last presidential election so significantly, the Republican Party adopted a strategy as outlined by Rush Limbaugh, who famously said that he hoped that Obama would fail. After winning a majority in the House during the mid-term elections, the Republican Speaker of the House echoed Limbaugh by naming his top priority as defeating Obama. It was no longer about what was best for America, or even what was good for America, it had been reduced to a purely political calculus: the Republicans just want to be in power.

Obama identified this tactic last September when he commented “If I say the sky is blue, [Republicans] say ‘no.’ If I said fish live in the sea, [Republicans would] say ‘no.'”

Because Rush Limbaugh has been inoculating millions of listeners against truth and fact for a generation, the Republicans have a gullible core of people who are primed to disbelieve and dislike Obama regardless of who he is or what he does. This sets Republicans up to make their strategy effective. They can oppose even dire needs of our country (like fixing the financial system or not defaulting on our governments obligations) because it works to the benefit of their political party. If the economy tanks, that’s great news because they can blame it on their bogey man, Obama. If Americans die because they can’t go to the doctor, that’s great news because they can blame it on Obamacare.

And every time Obama outshines his Republican predecessor (as in actually finding Osama bin Laden), then they’re ready with their whisper campaign of doubts to sway their army of the gullible.

Hangover From A Testosterone Binge

Adebayor celebrates his goal in controversial ...

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A recent study finds that “the number of traffic fatalities more than doubled following a nail-biter – but only in areas with a high concentration of winning fans.” The researchers hypothesize that alcohol and testosterone are to blame. Testosterone levels are known to increase in fans when experiencing a close win by the favored team. Testosterone is linked to aggressive behavior, and the link between alcohol and traffic accidents is well known.

I heard about this study just as I was thinking about how deep the hole is that our society is trying to dig itself out of. We entered the George W. Bush years with a government budget surplus, peace, and an unemployment rate around 4%. At the end of his administration, W. gave us a record budget deficit even higher than his Dad’s. He left us two wars with no end in sight.  He left us with an unemployment rate at nearly 6% and on the verge of exploding.

My image of “W.” and especially Vice President Cheney is one of a pair of macho frat guys flexing their muscles and roaring that the U.S. is the king of the global jungle. The mention of a study that links an abundance of testosterone to fatal accidents caught my ear and reminded me of them. We seem to be suffering the hangover from an eight year binge of machismo.

Our reckless machismo did not make America stronger; it led to disaster. Such disasters are not unwound very quickly. America voted for change in 2008, but now we’re getting impatient. We would like to skip the messy parts and get back to where we started a decade ago.

My, How Feverishly The Hawks Are Spinning!

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All of the sudden we’ve seen an explosion of American pundits criticizing their President over his handling of Libya.  Most of these detractors are conservative hawks who cannot stand how Obama has dealt with this situation.  He engaged the rest of the world, and he carefully considered many options before embarking on military action.

These hawks loved the George W. Bush approach: shoot first and ask questions later.  Of course at the time they labeled as traitors those who dared to criticize a president in the time of war.

But desperate times require desperate measures.  Now that we have a president who actually governs as if war is undesirable, they must not miss this opportunity to influence America’s voters.  They would like to convince America to tolerate nothing less than shooting first and asking questions later.  If they can manage to convince voters, then they can ensure that the Republican Party will do well in the next election.

Fiscally Conservative vs. Fiscally Responsible

I have always considered myself to be fiscally conservative but socially progressive. I have never subscribed to the tyranny of conspicuous consumption.  I do not think that more stuff makes one happy.  I do not believe problems are solved by simply throwing money at them.  I do not like debt.  I pay cash for cars and such.

Recently I was challenged by a friend.  She suggested that we have allowed “fiscal responsibility” to be re-branded as “fiscal conservatism.”  I think she has a point.  In today’s political environment, “conservative” does not mean “modest.”  And recent political history does not suggest that conservatives tend to govern in a more fiscally responsible way.

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I clearly recall the warnings from the right about the dire consequences if Bill Clinton were elected president in 1992.  They predicted that he would greatly increase the budget deficit.  Yet this progressive president managed not only to balance the budget but to leave office with a surplus budget.  This was quickly reversed by the “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush.

Clearly the term “fiscal conservatism” has a long history, so it does not fall into the category of terms recently coined by the right to reframe debates to their advantage (as explained by George Lakoff).  But it does continue to serve the purpose of reframing the term “conservative” to make it seem to be equivalent to “responsible.” It is also misleading.

Those who are politically conservative are not more fiscally responsible based on their history. What separates progressives and conservatives is their attitude about taxes. Conservatives seem to always advocate for cutting taxes and reducing our country’s revenue. Progressives appreciate taxes as a legitimate method of funding government.

I think my friend is right; I need to start calling fiscal responsibility by its correct name.

Christmas Comes Early for Limbaugh, et. al.

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Now that Congress has agreed to extend the Bush tax cuts, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly, and Sarah Palin will all be receiving a little extra spending money courtesy of the U.S. taxpayers. If Newsweek is correct about their incomes, and assuming they make the same amount next year, then by my calculations, Rush will be getting an extra $2,103,385.20, Glenn Beck will be getting $1,178,185.20, Sean Hannity will be getting $782,185.20, Bill O’Reilly will be getting $710,185.20, and Sarah Palin will be getting $494,185.20.

Let me be clear.  These figures represent the extra amount of money that these individuals will be able to keep thanks to the insistence of the Republicans that the Bush Tax Cuts be extended beyond the income threshold of  $250,000. The Democrat‘s proposal was already set to let each of them keep $4,681.50 more than what the current law allowed.  But why should they be satisfied with America borrowing only $5000 on their behalf when they can make future generations be on the hook for millions?

These millions of dollars are not really a gift from Uncle Sam.  No, each of these individuals worked very hard to make sure that like-minded citizens were elected to office last November.  It is thanks to their success that this windfall is coming their way. This is America, after all, so their hard work should be rewarded.

More Extortion Threats from Senate Republicans

Our Republican Senators are demanding that the Senate address two key issues, funding the government and cutting taxes on “all Americans” before they do anything else. The 42 members of the Republican Senate Caucus signed a letter stating, “While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.”

“All Americans” is their noble-sounding code for the rich. There is a consensus that the Bush Tax cut should be extended for Americans whose income is no more than $250,000 per year. If the Republicans would agree, then they could quickly pass a bill that would mean that all but the wealthiest Americans could benefit from continued low tax rates. So the Republicans are not really fighting for “all” Americans at all. They are holding the rest of us hostage to their demand that their rich cronies continue to get their Bush tax cut.

The irony of their demand seems lost on many people. They demand that the U.S. government address its funding problem while simultaneously taking an action that is at odds with solving this problem. One way to help the funding problem would be to raise the taxes on those who make more than $250,000. Clearly this is not the solution the Republicans have in mind. They are much more comfortable cutting off benefits to people who make less that $2 a year: the unemployed.

As far as their calling this a “job-killing” tax hike, well this is just their typical Orwellian double-talk. If they had any interest in creating jobs, then they’d want the government to invest in programs that are productive means of growing jobs. Examples of such means would be a direct stimulus or even extending unemployment benefits because those benefits are much more likely to be funneled into the economy than another bonus check for the rich. But of course they don’t like either of these ideas because the trickle up effect is much smaller than the benefit of a direct gift of cash.

What I can’t figure out is why the populist movement know as the Tea Party Movement would align themselves with a group of politicians who so transparently put the interests of the rich and powerful over the interests of the majority of Americans.

Was It a Crime or an Act of War?

Before September 11, 2001, acts of terrorism in the U.S. were dealt with as crimes rather than as warfare. President Bush (W.) very deliberately decided to consider the horrible events of 9/11 as an act of war rather than as a crime. By selling it as an invasion of American soil, perhaps President Bush hoped to create a narrative of events similar to Pearl Harbor and World War II.

His decision certainly inaugurated America’s “war on terror.” America had already gone to war against another abstract notion rather than an actual nation. Thirty years earlier, we had famously gone to war against drugs courtesy of President Nixon. The utter failure of our efforts to solve drug crimes by re-branding it as a war didn’t seem to dissuade President Bush or us.

Wars end only after one side surrenders. How precisely does one imagine that terrorism will surrender, I wonder? In other words, how do we end a war on terrorism? Are we obligated to continue to spend money and send our citizens to die so long as there are people utilizing terrorism to try to achieve their end? Do we seriously imagine that by flexing our considerable military muscle all would-be terrorists will eventually cower and refrain from trying to attack us?

Crimes, on the other hand, end when a perpetrator is brought to justice or when the case is closed after all leads are exhausted. There is no illusion that a particular type of crime will be eradicated. The pursuit of criminals follows an arc of justice. Wars are less concerned with justice and more concerned with destroying the enemy.

It is odd when I hear the same people who insist on calling 9/11 an act of war complain about the process of bringing its perpetrators to justice. What constitutes justice in the case of an act of war? If justice is achieved by imprisoning or killing the individual soldiers involved (as if it were a crime), then what justification do we have for invading foreign lands? Can we have it both ways? Can we insist on simultaneously prosecuting the crime and the war? Do we think that by doing both we express more righteous anger?

Trying to do both is an unholy combination. It justifies arguments that the accused should not have the rights guaranteed by our Constitution. It allows us to apply the no-holds barred style of war to a trial. Yet even if we were to execute every perpetrator of 9/11, it would not satisfy our blood-lust that we want to name as “Justice.”

There is a price for this unholy combination. It is not just the terrorists who lose. Every American loses a bit of the very freedoms that wars are fought to defend. If terrorism is an act of war rather than a crime, then the same absolute fever for its eradication must apply to preventing future acts of terrorism.

With a mere crime, our society balances the rights of citizens against the power of the government to prevent crimes. But there is zero tolerance against acts of war. To allow even one act of war on our soil would make us appear to be weak. Our macho indignation cannot abide by that.

So now with every new foiled plot, we add one more indignity to anyone who chooses to fly on a commercial airplane. We allow one more invasion by our government into our rights. We pick on the airlines it seems because that was the weapon of choice on September 11th. But it doesn’t stop there. Wiretapping and other violations of our constitutional rights are swallowed by a public who have been whipped into a frenzy about this “war.”

Like the drug war, none of our efforts seem to have made any real progress toward the implied goal of ending terrorism. Is America safer as a result of all this? I suspect that in fact we have played into the hands of terrorists. Terrorism is designed not to inflict material damage to an enemy, but rather it is designed to leverage meager resources toward inflicting symbolic damage that terrorizes the enemy.

If the goal was to strike terror in America, then one would have to say that the best allies of the terrorists have been our leaders who continually overreact to every threat. Oddly what seems to be driven by our machismo has resulted in our appearing to be scared and impotent. I wonder where we would be today if our leaders had taken the course of considering 9/11 a horrific crime rather than an act of war. Perhaps then we would have brought the perpetrators to justice and limited Al-Qaeda to only fifteen minutes of fame.