Tag Archives: Democrats

I Get Blogging and Rick Santorum Gets Some Love


So, I drifted past an email from WordPress just the other day and it came to my attention that I haven’t posted anything since November. It’s not like I quit having opinions and I’m always excited to share them. So after an extended hiatus, Independent Kansan is back. It’s good to see you all again. There is much to talk about as Republicans and Democrats bicker away. The President is running for reelection. Republicans are trying to pick his opponent, and I’m just trying to live my life like most of us. So here are some random observations I’ve been having lately.

1) Mitt Romney is more out of touch with the average american than anyone in the world. I swear he has no concept of what it’s like to be an average guy. I’m not saying it’s bad that he’s wealthy. I don’t even mind that he’s running for office because he appears to think its a cool thing to do. When he makes a quip about how he’s not worried about the extremely poor or when he breaks out his stump joke that he understands America because he’s, “unemployed too,” he just  comes across as totally detached. I’m amazed he was ever the front-runner.

2) Rick Santorum is finally getting some of the attention he deserves. Mr. Santorum and I don’t agree about anything but that’s fine. At least there is little in my mind that doubts his conviction. When comes out and says he’s against abortion, even in extreme circumstances, I don’t think he’s saying that for political reasons. I can respect that. When Mitt Romney or Newt Gingrich says some of these things I’m pretty sure if I had the right poll numbers they would change their minds pretty quick. I’ve long said I thought Santorum would make a great VP candidate. He may be proving that VP is beneath him.

3)”Class Warfare” should be stricken from the English language. I’m so tired of hearing about how a 1% or 3%  raise in taxes on millionaires is “Class Warfare.” How is it not class warfare that wages for the middle and lower classes haven’t kept pace with inflation. Or that the rich do not pay social security or Medicare taxes on all of their income.  The rich in this country have it as good as they have in decades. After WWII people making over two hundred thousand dollars a year had that income taxed at 91%. We’re worried that currently millionaires might pay 34%, and that’s if most of their income doesn’t come from investments. I hat e to be the crazy liberal here, but taxing these people will not hurt them, and it won’t hurt you and me.

4)Republicans should continue to fight for the rights of the wealthy. They’ve started a trend here and every fight where they push back on unemployment and a tax cut for working people just to prevent 1% on millionaires. They are writing the campaign commercials that will lead to their demise.

Anyway, I’ve been needing to get that out for sometime. I gotta tell you it’s good to be back. I’m not optimistic, but I hope maybe we can have a real conversation in the coming months. To begin with I’m going to write about a series of electoral reforms I think we need in this country to help give democratic power to the people. I hope to see you there.

A Poll You Should Pay Attention To


In my last post I was upset about an ABC report on a political poll that I believed was ridiculous. It put the President up against a generic Republican and found more people would vote for the Republican. You can see what I said about it here.

I’m not a fan of polls. In general I don’t think predicting human behavior is all that easy. To a great extent we have gotten quite good at it, but there is still no way to predict what a particular person will do in a particular moment. My bias aside there is one poll I think all Americans should take a look at.

The Pew Research Center describes itself as a “nonpartisan “fact tank” that provides information on the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world.” Every few years they put out a particularly interesting poll. It’s called “Beyond Red vs. Blue.” In essence the poll breaks down the American public into many more groups than the Republican, Democrat, Independent model that we are used to.  Based on questions about a variety of subjects it gives a much more in-depth look at American voters. There is a lot of interesting information included.

It gets even better. They provide a quick online quiz to show you where you land on the political spectrum. At the end you are provided with a great deal of information. I think it is a great example of the research into politics that should be happening. I encourage all of you to go to this site and take the political typology quiz. Let me know where you land and any comments about the poll you might have.

It might not seem surprising to any of my readers, but I came down as a “Solid Liberal.” Who knew?

Independent Kansan: Post-Rapture Edition


That’s right baby, we’re back. I don’t know if everybody is still out there. Maybe some people were whisked away to Heaven, but it wasn’t me and it wasn’t you. The post-Rapture “Hell on Earth” doesn’t seem to be taking place. So I have made the decision to return to a life of speaking my opinion to anyone who will listen and boldly trying to restore some common sense to the world.

It might be worth noting that a few hours after the supposed beginning of the end, a tornadic thunderstorm did roll through my little piece of this planet. I don’t know if God was sending me a warning shot or what.

I guess I should give you a preview of whats to come. Tim Pawlenty is running for President. Mitch Daniels is not. Sarah Palin, apparently raised some money and bought a house in Arizona. People seem to think that maybe she’s setting something up. We still have to raise the debt ceiling, pass a budget and while we are fighting about all of that, the President has called on Congress to reform federal education law this year.

I had got an email on Friday that posed some interesting questions. This is what it said:

“I wonder what the following conversations / planning meetings were like?

Democratic leadership planning on how to take advantage of the new Democratic Majority after the Rapture.  (assuming our Republican friends are taken, and the gay loving, baby killing, welfare spending democrats are left all alone.

Republicans planning how to carry on if their most vocal base goes to heaven.  (Safe assumption that if they got themselves elected to congress they will not be making the trip) How can they stay in office without their Christian conservative supporters.  Did the republican party circulate forms “in case of rapture, please donate all of my money to the Republican party?”
Special thanks to Mike for allowing me to use this. I assume he won’t mind. The point of all this is that there is no shortage of things to talk about, and as the world seems to be continuing on, so must we. Thanks to all my readers. I hope in the “Post-Rapture world” I can continue to provide a voice of civility in a world of madness.

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.

Who Will The Republican Party Pick?


As the race for the Republican nomination heats up, I see the field narrowing very quickly. Let’s start with who’s in and who’s not. Haley Barbour said he isn’t running. Rep. Mike Pence, whose named was tossed about, would rather be governor of Indiana. Personally, I think Pence is making the strategic calculation that Obama’s going to win and the election in 2016 will be much easier with some executive experience under his belt. From what I’ve heard and read, I don’t think Sarah Palin will really get in race. I don’t think Mike Huckabee will either. Donald Trump is obviously making waves, but even if he gets in the race he won’t last long. He’s just playing on the right’s dislike of the President. He hasn’t put forth any real ideas. Former Ambassador Jon Huntsman seems to be in the field, but I don’t see him winning. The “he worked for Obama” argument will kill his campaign. Rick Santorum isn’t an unlikely choice, but his appeal to social conservatives isn’t going to separate him from the pack. I think Santorum could prove to be a valuable running mate for some of the other candidates. While any of these folks might get in the race I don’t think they really have a chance.

This brings me to the four that I think are most interesting Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Tim Pawlenty, and Herman Cain. I don’t think Bachmann has a real shot at the nomination, but if she runs she could influence who does. She’s very popular with the Tea Party. Appealing to the Tea Party is going to be important to get both votes and money. I think you’re likely to see the support of American’s For Prosperity and similar groups going toward the most Tea Partyish candidates. This is why gaining her endorsement (and Sarah Palin’s) could be important. It might also make her a choice as a running mate, but she comes with baggage. Her Sarah Palinesque style and “slightly off-camera” speech delivery along with the fact that she was a Democrat who volunteered for Jimmy Carter, might make her not worth it.

Mitt Romney is often called the front-runner these days. Romney is charismatic and presidential looking. He’s a decent public speaker. He does have issues though. He is the former governor of not only a blue state, but perhaps the bluest of them all. Massachusetts has only fallen to Republicans four times since 1928. “Romneycare” will be a stumbling block. I believe 2012 will feel a lot like 2008 for Mitt Romney.

Tim Pawlenty is the quintessential Republican candidate. He’s a former Governor which is important. Only three sitting senators (Warren Harding, John Kennedy, and Barack Obama) have been elected president. James Garfield is the only member of the House to be elected president. The others were primarily governors. Americans seem to like the idea that governing a state is much like governing the country.  He’s a devout Christian, has a record of fiscal conservatism, and is one of the few Republicans that will appear on the Daily Show. The fact that he will go into an environment that obviously disagrees with him will help him gain some independents. If Republicans want to defeat President Obama, Pawlenty is their best chance. However, there is one candidate that brings something different to the table.

Herman Cain is an unusual candidate, and I think he may actually put up a fight. He has no political experience. That could work to his advantage as he faces an electorate largely disillusioned with politics. He is a successful businessman, and many people feel that an experienced CEO would make an experienced Executive. On top of that he’s an African-American who has a better chance of connecting to that community. The President enjoyed what would appear to many as an exotic childhood. He was raised in Hawaii and spent part of his childhood in Indonesia. Herman Cain, however, is a black, Christian man from Georgia. He attended Morehouse College, and was the first person in his family to earn a degree. Herman Cain has more in common with many black people than the President. He provides the Republican party with an opportunity to show that they are diverse and represent the interests of all Americans. That paired with the fact that drawing the votes of disillusioned, working class African-Americans who are begging for a reason to believe in the American Dream could spell doom for Democrats.

It is very early to be speculating about the next election. Polls from this far out are almost always wrong, but Republicans are at a crossroads. They can choose to remain the establishment that they have been, or follow a new more conservative path. The best part of this choice is that it will lie with the people who support the party. Establishment Republicans could not be happier if the status quo is maintained. Their constituents may have a different opinion. Interestingly, I hope the status quo is maintained. If I have to choose between the Republican I know, and one who may be far more conservative, my choice is clear.

Today I Praise Republicans. Well, Three Republicans.


A couple of Republican Senators caught me by surprise on Sunday. Both Sen. Tom Coburn, and Sen. Saxby Chambliss said that raising government revenue should be considered in the attempt to balance the budget. This goes against not only the Republican budget proposal in the House, but also the Republican talking point that the governments problem is spending not revenue.

Coburn and Chambliss are both part of the “Gang of Six” who are Senators looking for a budget compromise in the Senate. Coburn has come under fire from conservative activist Grover Norquist who says he is going back on his word. Specifically, Sen. Coburn signed an oath with Americans for Tax Reform that said he would not vote to raise taxes. Coburn’s repsonse was very direct. He said:

“Well, I think which pledge is most important, David , is the pledge to, to uphold your oath to the Constitution of the United States or a pledge from a special interest group who, who claims to speak for all of American conservatives when, when in fact they really don’t.”

For a Republican to fire back at a conservative special interest group like that caught me way off guard. Sen. Chambliss was far less fiery when talking about revenue. On CNN, he said:

” Now, if we don’t want to pay the debt back, then we could just not worry about the revenues. But the fact is we’ve got a $14 trillion debt staring us in the face, and revenues has to be on the table if we’re serious about attacking that debt.”

Both quotes come from this NPR story.  It’s important that two Republican senators have put raising revenue on the table. Democrats have already acknowledged that spending needs to be cut. Now, we at least have a group working at both sides of the problem, revenue and spending.

Coburn’s idea for raising revenue is certainly going to be a hard sell to Republicans. He wants to eliminate tax deductions, and credits in the tax code. This will cause businesses and individuals to pay more in taxes. Republicans have often called this a “tax increase.”  As the Boston Globe reported  last July, House Republicans opposed the act to give healthcare to 9\11 first responders because it included a “corporate tax increase.” The bill would have prevented foreign corporations from not paying taxes on profit earned in the US.

I don’t see that as a tax increase. Our tax code says you should pay this much. It then says if you do certain things the government will give some of that money back (a tax credit) or not tax you on that income (a tax deduction.) This is the government’s way of influencing our behavior. It is a version of positive reinforcment. For those of you not schooled in psychology, positive reinforcement is when you provide a reward for a certain behavior with the intention of increasing the probability that the same behavior will reoccur. So, when the government offers a tax credit to first time homebuyers they are trying to increase home ownership by giving a financial incentive. Taking away that tax credit is not really raising taxes it’s just not providing that incentive.

I like to use the metaphor of a retail business, perhaps a grocery store. When you walk into a grocery store everything has a price. It’s usually listed right on the shelf below the item. From time to time the store wants to encourage you to buy particular items. Maybe they have a large supply of something and they want to move some product. For a time that item costs less. As people buy enough of a particular item, the store will end the sale. Did the store raise prices? Not really. The price of that item did technically go up, but it just went to the normal rate. In the same way, when the government says a particular tax credit or deduction is expiring, they aren’t raising taxes. They are really just saying we need to start paying full price again.

Perhaps thats not important right now, but I wanted to make a point. In the end I applaud Sen. Coburn, Sen. Chambliss as well as Sens. Conrad, Durbin, Warner, and Crapo for trying to do real work for the people of this country. I hope they are successful in finding a good compromise.

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.