Tag Archives: Congress

Okay, Let’s Talk About Jobs


Well, as I mentioned in my last post Bank of America is planning to lay-off thirty thousand employees over the next couple of years. This news was announced with stunning irony, on the same day that President Obama sent his recently announced “American Jobs Act” to Congress. So, the talk in politics is all about jobs. What can Congress, or the President really do to create jobs in this country? The answer is. . . not much.

All the talk is about the record of job creation a person has. Rick Perry is touting the economic success “he’s had” in Texas. Mitt Romney is taking shots at him about it, and all the Republicans are blaming President Obama for the economy. John Boehner gave a speech today in Detroit basically outlining the fact that congressional Republicans aren’t going to work with the President. Unless, of course, he does whatever they want. Their ideas are the same tired ideas they’ve had for years, but I will deal with that later.

There is an idea that is more broad and it needs addressed. The American public has a huge misconception about the role of government in the economy. We talk about a President’s record of creating job, but the truth is that president’s don’t create jobs. Unless, they require the government to hire more people. George W. Bush, for example, created the job of Secretary of Homeland Security. President’s can only provide incentives, like tax credits and tax cuts, for employers to hire more people, but that won’t work.

Take a look at it this way. I’m CEO of the Worldwide Widget Corporation, J. Pierpont Finch. We sell two million widgets a year that are produced in two factories employing 100 people. The accountants come to me and say if we build a new factory and hire 50 more people, we’ll get a tax credit. What would you do? If your smart you’d go to the sales team and ask, “If we build a new factory how many more widgets can we sell?” If they say there is no more demand for widgets, you would be crazy to spend the money on a factory and employees that you don’t need. You would be throwing money away. Yes, the government is going to reimburse you for some of it but then your stuck with a factory that is a drain on your profit.

Now, if the sales team comes to you and says, “If we build a factory and hire some people we can sell one million more widgets and our profit will grow 50%.” What would you do? You’d build the factory, and I bet you would do it even if you weren’t getting a tax credit. You’d build it because it is good for Worldwide Widgets.

The President and Congress have no actual role in that decision. Only one thing does, and that is demand. The economy isn’t a physical thing. It is the compilation of all of the uncountable transactions that take place between people and business every day. The mood of the masses drives the economy. President Bush issued rebate checks to American taxpayers. If you filed a tax return you got a $600 check if you were a single person and a $1200 check if you filed jointly. That could stimulate the economy, but only if people spend that money. If the public puts it in their savings for another day, it doesn’t do anything until that other day.

That means that people are the economy. We make it succeed or fail, grow or retract. Capitalism is built on people spending money. That’s why consumer confidence is so important. If we believe the economy is going well and we can afford to spend money, then things will be okay. Christina Stein wrote an interesting article about this at the Kansas Free Press.

I’ve said before that the best way to stimulate the economy would be to eliminate taxes on the poorest people. Poor people are unique in that they are the only group of people who spend every dollar they have. The middle-class, and the wealthy don’t do that. They can afford to have a savings or a retirement account. If you give poor people more of their paycheck, a lot of money will immediately be returned into the economy.

The real truth about the economy is that it hinges on the behavior of people. Presidents don’t control that. Congress doesn’t control that. If you vote on the state of things now, you are voting for the wrong reasons. We need to be voting for the person who is thinking about the future. We need to look at a candidates vision, intellect, and drive. We need to take our eyes off of today and think about tomorrow, and pick the right person to lead us there.

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A Debate, A Speech, And Oh, My God, I Forgot Claude Rains


The past couple of days have been eventful in the world of politics. There was a Republican debate, a presidential address to Congress, and shortly thereafter we kicked off the NFL regular season. I’m not sure what it says about this country that the President had to schedule his speech around a football game to make sure people watched, but that’s what happened. Scheduling aside, there is much to talk about.

First, the debate. I didn’t watch it. I have read the highlights. I probably should have watched because it is the first one Texas Governor Rick Perry has participated in, but I wasn’t that interested. Mostly, I didn’t care because the Republican party is not going to nominate anyone that I would consider voting for.  Michele Bachmann claimed she would get the price of gas down to $2 a gallon. I thought that was interesting. I’m sure her reasoning is that if we open the whole country up to drilling we’ll find enough oil. In reality that is nonsense. The price of gas is largely dependent on the price of oil and we will never find enough to compete with the national oil companies of countries like Saudi Arabia. I thought the small exchange between Mitt Romney and Rick Perry about job creation was funny. Perry pointed out the Micheal Dukakis had a better job creation record than Romney did as Governor of Massachusetts. Romney shot back that former Texas governors Ann Richards and George W. Bush had a better record than Perry. Personally, I believe that shows that governors don’t have a whole lot of power over job creation.

Jon Huntsman would be interesting candidate, but I don’t think he has a chance. He might not be a bad choice for VP. He is a seasoned diplomat, and the eventual nominee is almost certain to lack foreign policy experience. Why won’t they have that experience? The answer is simple. Rick Perry is going to be the nominee. I don’t have a doubt about it. He really is the best candidate that the Republicans can put forward. He’s got all the conservative bona fides. He’s got all the folksy appeal. He’s George W. Bush on steroids. Unlike Bush he’s a real Texan. He went to Texas A&M (though his grades weren’t that great.) With the economy stagnating and job creation basically non-existent, he has all the ammunition to take down President Obama. Obama’s problem is simple. His argument is more complicated. Perry can tout his record of job creation in Texas. On the surface this record looks good, but if you look deeper you find that most of those jobs are low-paying and don’t have benefits like health insurance. Obama’s problem will be that most people don’t look deeper.  On NPR’s “All Things Considered”, a Democratic strategist from Texas called Rick Perry, “the best, most talented politician to come out of Texas since LBJ.” If that’s true this election should be something to watch. Which brings us to the President’s speech.

Frankly, I didn’t think it was one of his best. I don’t believe it was particularly well-written. He told Congress to, “pass this bill,” far too often. From a policy standpoint, however, I think he is doing the right thing. His proposals will help everyday Americans. The middle class that doesn’t get talked about nearly often enough will benefit from the bill. The extension of the payroll tax cut, and unemployment benefits are good ideas. The fact that it won’t add to the deficit (which the president pointed out more than once) should make it palatable to Republicans. The President pointed out that the proposals in the bill have been supported by both Republicans and Democrats in the past. That, along with the fact that it won’t add to the deficit, should make it harder for Republicans to oppose it as another “government spending binge.” I firmly believe that the President has the best interests of the American people in mind. Yes, he has a political incentive as well. Job creation and a growing economy will help his reelection effort, but I think in this case he really wants to improve things for the people. We will see what Congress thinks.

Finally, I made a horrible omission. In my last post I recommended the film “Casablanca.” I talked about how the movie contained anything you could want. I talked about the amazing screenplay, and I talked about the stellar performances of all the cast members. To my dismay, I failed to mention Claude Rains. Claude Rains, in the role of “Louie” is absolutely one of the best parts in the movie. He even delivers the unforgettable line, “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!” So, I must apologize for my error, and once again recommend that you see “Casablanca” It is one of the best films ever made.

Praise For PolitiFact


You may know that I am a big fan of the website Politifact.com. Politifact is a non-partisan fact checking website that does it’s best to sort out the truth behind the statements of politicians, journalists and pundits. They recently did an article about the War Powers Resolution. The resolution limits a President’s power to engage in hostilities against another nation without congressional approval. You can read the article here. Politifact had a hard time coming to a concrete answer. Not surprisingly, the meaning of the War Powers Resolution, and its enforcment is a bit murky.

It limits the President from engaging in “hostilities” without congressional approval, but it doesn’t define hostilities. Experts seem to be split or undecided on the issue. I would enocourage you to read the article to try and form your own opinion. Politifact’s review of the situation is not what I wanted to talk about, but it is the backdrop. What I want to talk about is Politifact’s conduct regarding e-mails from readers.

I read the article about the War Powers Resolution. I’ve actually read a lot of what Politifact reviews. It is a top-knotch website when it comes to sorting out the truth. Their article on this issue left me with a couple of questions. So I took the opportunity to e-mail them. I wrote this:

“Your article on the War Powers act was interesting, I’m wondering why we are only talking about Libya? People are complaining about Obama’s actions in Libya violating the War Powers act, but since the Bush administration I believe, we have been striking Pakistan and targets in Yemen. Why are these not questioned? Also, since ratified treaties carry the weight of law are we not legally obligated to be a part of NATO actions? I would be interested in any information you can dig up on those questions. Thanks!

I was hoping for at least some kind of answer, but not expecting much. A website like this gets many emails about various subjects. I was unbelievably surprised when, I kid you not, 1 hour and 13 minutes later I got this reply:

“It’s a good question we did not address in the story. I believe that the answer is that (1) actions to counter terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda were approved in the post-9/11 resolution that green-lighted the Afghanistan War, and (2) no one in Congress seems to be making the argument that the president cannot pursue those actions.”

I couldn’t believe it. This was not a form letter reponse. It wasn’t a “Thank you for your interest,” auto reply. Someone had taken the time to read my question and provide an answer. I especially enjoyed that it was from a person who said, “I believe.” Obviously they hadn’t had the time to do detailed research into my question, but I was given a preliminary answer by a knowledgable person.

I wish to commend Politifact for this. Since it is becoming more evident that we cannot depend on the “news,” it is refreshing to see people who care about the truth and are willing to take the time to address an individual’s questions. Thank you Politifact.com.

Be Subject To One Another


“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.” -Ephesians 5:21, New Revised Standard Edition

In this day in age of 24 hour cable crap devoted to feeding the voyeuristic gluttony of an American public hooked on bad soap opera that passing itself off as important, don’t you think we could find some relevance in verse 21″ – President Josiah Bartlet on “The West Wing”

In this time of natural disaster when communities across the country are ravaged by tornado and flood, wouldn’t it help if we were concerned more with others than ourselves. Tornadoes ripped through the South recently killing hundreds. Just two days ago a huge tornado leveled much of Joplin, MO. In between those two events the Mississippi River overflowed causing damage to hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland. People all over this country have lost their livelihoods. Families have been destroyed. Communities of been splintered. Now, I am not the pinnacle of a devout Christian, but if ever there was a time for us to be subject to others, it is now.

That is why I firmly believe House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) should be run out of Washington. To be fair, I’ve never liked Mr. Cantor. I stand opposed to nearly everything he believes. That would be fine. Disagreements are good. A healthy debate is necessary in this country. Unfortunately, Mr. Cantor is not concerned with what is best for the people of this country. He seems more concerned with winning. Politico reported on Monday that Mr. Cantor said, “if there is support for a supplemental, it would be accompanied by support for having pay-fors to that supplemental.”

In other words if were going to help people whose lives have been destroyed, we have to cut spending in an equal amount. In February, Mr. Cantor voted no to an amendment that eliminated funding to build an extra engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The Defense Department didn’t want the engine, but Mr. Cantor thought the program was a good way to spend 435 million dollars a year. That money could buy a lot of bottled water for people in Joplin, Tuscaloosa and Vicksburg.

I can’t express how angry I am that Republicans are trying to tie everything that happens in this world to spending cuts. It would be one thing if they wanted to balance the budget, but they don’t. They want to reduce the size of the federal government so that they can slash taxes for the rich.

This is about helping people who have lost everything.  In this country when our fellow citizens are lying at rock-bottom we reach out and lift them up. We find the money. It doesn’t matter if  we have to borrow it from China or raise taxes on everything from business to income or property.  We look after our own.

Mr. Cantor should apologize to every American who has lost a family member, or friend in these disasters. It is offensive to suggest that we should be talking about how to make disaster relief deficit neutral less than twenty-four hours after the second deadliest tornado since 1950 is confirmed to have killed 125 people. 700 residents of Joplin are still missing. The death toll is likely to rise significantly, and Mr. Cantor wants to talk about spending cuts.

America is only a great nation if it takes care of its citizens at their greatest time of need. That means when disaster strikes FEMA sweeps in and does all it can do to help. It means we do whatever we need to do, and pay for it however we can. We don’t haggle over deficits, and spending cuts. We do the job of helping people rebuild their lives. That is the most important thing the government can do. Mr. Cantor could learn something about being subject to others. In 2012, I hope he remembers that he is certainly subject to the voters of Virginia’s 7th district. I hope they hold him accountable.

Stand Your Ground, Mr. President


After scanning the news one particular thing stuck out at me. We can’t borrow anymore money. That’s correct the U.S. has reached its debt limit. Apparently due to some fancy accounting we are still paying our bills, but only for a few months. The President has called for the debt limit to be raised. Treasury Secretary Geithner has warned of dire economic conditions if it is not. The general consensus among economists and most politicians is that this must happen. Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget proposal even said:

“The first sign that a debt crisis has arrived is that bond investors lose confidence in a government’s ability to pay its debts – and by that point, it is usually too late to avoid severe disruption and economic pain.” Rep. Ryan’s Budget Proposal Pg. 21

Defaulting on our debt will certainly cause investors to lose confidence. So why hasn’t an increase passed it? Republican’s want more spending cuts.

The debt ceiling debate is driving me crazy. Speaker John Boehner is out calling for spending cuts equal to the increase in the debt ceiling. That’s ridiculous and impossible. We can’t cut spending by the amount the debt ceiling will need to go up. If we did it wouldn’t be long before we completely defund the federal government. The possible implications of not raising the debt ceiling are huge. Everyone seems to agree that if the U.S. stops paying its bills the effect on the global economy would be catastrophic. The result in this country would be unimaginable. The worst part is that John Boehner isn’t against raising the debt ceiling. He’s just against it when a Democrat is President. Not that his hypocrisy doesn’t exist across the aisle. Democrats are eager to raise the debt limit now, but they were more that happy to complain about it just a few years ago. For his part, Mr. Boehner has voted to raise the debt ceiling multiple times in the past. A number of these votes are hard to find, because under House rules some legislation is passed without anyone’s vote being recorded. How’s that for open government? It is record that in 2002 and 2004 (when President Bush was in office) he voted to raise the debt limit. He voted that way because it was necessary and John Boehner isn’t a lunatic. At least I hope he still isn’t. I should note that President Obama is calling for a raise in the debt limit, but when President Bush sat in the Oval Office, then Sen. Obama, along with many Democrats, voted against the increase. He now says that was a mistake. It was.

When it comes to budget deficits, debt limits and other things involving money, the reality is that it’s all politics. This is a non-partisan issue being used for partisan gain. Do you want evidence? We’ve had a budget deficit for 10 years. Republican’s just got angry about it when a Democrat was in the White House. Congress has voted to raise the debt ceiling a number of times in the past decade. Republicans supported it all of them until President Obama took office. Democrats were against them at that same time. Then a magical thing happened. On Jan. 20th, 2009, President Obama was sworn in and everybody changed sides. It’s like everybody was suddenly persuaded by the other side’s point of view. If only one argument had been so compelling, we wouldn’t have this stalemate. Unfortunately, both sides were so convincing we just ended up right back where we were. Sentences like that make me wish there was a “sarcasm key” on your standard QWERTY keyboard.

This should not be an argument. We have to pay our bills, and bickering over some arbitrary limit imposed on the government nearly one hundred years ago is childish. I like that the debt ceiling brings public attention to our national debt. It’s important that we pay attention to what we are spending. Using that attention to promote a drastic partisan agenda, however, is irresponsible. John Boehner seems to think that spending isn’t getting enough national attention. We’ve been talking about spending for months. There are groups in both the House and the Senate working on budget compromises. Rep. Paul Ryan unveiled the Republican ideas for reducing the deficit weeks ago. President Obama released his proposal shortly thereafter. THIS ISN’T ABOUT THE BUDGET. This about whether or not we will live up to the commitments we have made. The budget should be a different debate, and it is a debate we are having.

That’s why I believe the President should stand his ground and not give in. For what might be the first time in his Presidency, he’s in a game of political “chicken” and he doesn’t need to flinch. Everybody knows that this has to happen. Yes, some of the new Tea Party supported members of Congress may be clamoring for spending cuts. I think that why Boehner is out causing a ruckus. In the end, the establishment of the Republican party will make sure our economy doesn’t collapse, and will continue the spending debate as they prepare the next budget.

The vote over the debt ceiling shouldn’t even be big news. It would be to the political advantage of both parties to quietly pass it instead of engaging in such obvious hypocrisy. If they don’t get what they want enough of them will still vote for it that the increase passes. Republicans just want the best political advantage they can get going into the next election. They will look at swing districts where a Republican is the incumbent, and a no vote will be popular and those members will vote no. They will look at districts where a Democrat is the incumbent, and a no vote would be popular and special interests will make huge ad buys in the 2012 election.

We have to raise the debt limit and we all know it. So, John Boehner can raise a ruckus about spending. Democrats and Republicans can hope that the public ignores how hypocritical they have been on this issue. Republicans will jump on any notion of conciliation from the White House. If the White House doesn’t give them the chance, they will still pass the debt limit increase.

Stand your ground, Mr. President. This is one fight you’re going to win.

What’s The Problem With Promoting Morals? You Have To Actually Have Them.


Nevada Senator John Ensign is resigning. He is facing an ethics investigation over an affair with a campaign aide. A story about a politician and adultery may not seem that newsworthy anymore. Ensign is a Republican though and that warrants attention. If you ask yourself why so many Republicans fall into this trap and get news coverage, the answer is easy. It’s because they spend they’re public lives attacking people who do these things and then they go and do the same things. It’s simple hypocrisy. When Mark Foley says he’s gay, or Larry Craig tries to solicit gay sex in an airport bathroom, it’s news. If Barney Frank did it, no one would care. Why? Barney Frank is openly gay. The trouble with defending morals and “traditional family values” is that you have to live up to them. John Ensign argued against gay marriage citing the sanctity of the institution. He was having an affair with a campaign aide, whose husband was a friend and aide of the Senator. He apparently forgot about, “Don’t covet thy neighbor’s wife.”

I’m working on a big post about the current attack on teachers that is occuring in this country. It’s insane to think that cutting teachers pay, and benefits will reap any positive rewards, but the research to prove that is taking some time. In the meantime I wanted to say a little bit about this issue. On a sidenote, John Ensign had already said he wouldn’t run for another term in the Senate. As the LA Times reports, when asked if he was concerned about an ethics investigation he apparently said, “If I was concerned about that, I’d resign.”  I guess he’s living up to his word.

So There’s An Imaginary Forest. . .


Really, there’s an imaginary forest. This forest has trees and plants, but no animals, nothing that can hear, except you. Suddenly a wind picks up and a huge tree starts falling to the ground. Now think, if you weren’t there did it make a sound?

How long did it take before you said, “Of course.” Not very long, I’m guessing. It isn’t such a simple question though. Let’s talk a little about our sense of hearing. Hearing is an example of mechanosensation, meaning that our hearing organs, the ears, are interpreting the movement of molecules around us and sending that information to our brains. Sound is a wave, which means it is not a physical object. It is really just energy that causes molecules to vibrate. They bump up against other molecules and transfer that energy. That happens countless times until some of those molecules bump up against your eardrum. That information is then translated into nerve impulses that shoot up your auditory nerve to your brain. Then you hear something. This happens extremely quickly and is going on constantly. So a tree falls and vibrates the world around it eventually those vibrations make it to your ear and you think “I think a tree is falling.” Hopefully you look around to make sure it’s not falling on you. People usually argue that sound waves are still sent out even if no one is there and so the tree still makes sound.

The presence of sound waves isn’t the question, however. The real question is what is the very nature of sound. Is sound something that exists in the environment? Or is it merely our brains interpretation of something in the environment? Does the physical sensation of sound exist outside our heads or is it created by our brain? Imagine if humans lacked a sense of hearing. We could still discover sound waves in the environment. We could make machines that would detect them. We might still call them sound waves, but they wouldn’t mean the same thing to us. If we lacked a sense of hearing it would fundamentally change the way we think of sound, because our brains would not interpret that information the same. In essence, sound as we know it would not exist. So is the “tree in the woods” question really so simple? Should you have answered so quickly?

The “tree in the woods” question is perhaps not important in our lives. People certainly have more important things to worry about. The nature of sound and hearing doesn’t usually make the top 5. What’s the problem with that? The problem is that we answer so many important questions with the same quick, “of course.” Questions about government, politics, education, any number of important things get brushed aside and we just believe what we repeatedly hear. That’s why FOXNews can say the President is spending $200 million a day on an Asia trip and people believe. “Do politician’s waste our tax dollars? Of course.” We can be convinced that teachers have easy jobs and are overpaid. “Teachers only work 9 months a year, of course they’re overpaid.” We don’t demand thorough arguments and answers, so we don’t get them.

When I was a child I dreaded hearing one of my say four words. “Because I said so.” I hated it, because it was simply not an answer. I’ve always asked questions and I wanted a real answer but sometimes “because I said so” was just easier. For example, my mother would tell me to put on my coat. I would ask why, and she would say “because I said so.” She could have said, “It’s the middle of winter and if you don’t put on your coat you’ll have hypothermia before we reach the car.” That would have taken much longer I  would’ve needed an explanation of what hypothermia was. She went with brevity instead.

I only mention this because we are getting “because I said so” arguments and we’re responding with “of course.” The new Republican budget was unveiled recently. In a video Rep. Paul Ryan, showed that his budget would avoid a debt crisis. How? Well he had a graph and he said so. He doesn’t want people asking too many questions. We are being force-fed a mantra that tax cuts for the rich will create jobs. Republicans say it so often I’m beginning to think they have a “millionaire tax cut” button. Why do tax cuts for the rich create jobs. Because they said so. You could argue that the people who really create jobs are consumers, because they buy products and services thus creating demand for more products and services. This in turn employs more people to manufacture and sell those products and to provide those services. Virtually all of those consumers are not wealthy. So perhaps cutting taxes for them would make more sense than cutting taxes for the rich. You could make that argument. They would rather you didn’t. I’m amazed at the number of people who just assume the “tax cuts create jobs” argument is  true without taking the time to think about it. This brush-off by the public is how we ended up with “death panels.” Sarah Palin hopped on FOX and did some “golly gee Democrats want to kill old people,” number and we were off to the races.  Pres. Obama might not be a citizen. Why? Donald Trump says so. He said so multiple times so it must be ultra-true. These questions are far more complicated and take far more attention than we are willing to give. Yes, people are busy. They have families, and jobs and any number of things to do, but we are at the beginning of the next presidential campaign. If we want real leadership, we have to demand it.

I wrote 402 words about the tree in the woods question. Imagine how many more words could be written about taxes, healthcare, and education. All of these discussions are going on in the federal government, and state governments. In the movie “Uncle Buck” there’s a scene where Macualay Culkin is asking rapid-fire questions of his Uncle Buck. Buck (played by John Candy) tells him he asks a lot of questions. Culkin replies, “I’m a kid. That’s my job.” When did we quit that job? When did we become so disillusioned that we decided it wasn’t worth asking anymore? We need to take up that job again, but it won’t work if we just accept any answer. So we have to ask, How many “because I said so” arguments are we going to accept before we ask for real answers? How many times are we just going to say, of course?  I used to think that Americans were just apathetic when it came to holding government accountable. I was wrong. We just don’t want to take the time to really examine the questions. So, I’m extending an invitation. It’s to a rally. A rally where we start asking the tough questions and demanding real answers. Where is this rally? It’s on your computer, in you living room, in your statehouses, or an imaginary forest. It’s anyplace where we know that sound exists because we make sure that people can hear us.