Tag Archives: President Bush

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.

The Trump Card

Boy, oh boy, the Obama-hating brigade is getting out in force. We have all heard about our Kenyan-born President. Donald Trump has made sure that we will continue hearing about it. That’s not good enough for Trump, however. As CBS reports in an Associated Press interview, Trump said he doesn’t understand how Obama got into Ivy League schools. The President graduated from Columbia and went onto graduate magna cum laude from Harvard Law. Trump says that he has heard that Obama was a “terrible student.” He gave no evidence of that claim. Some people will probably say we shouldn’t be giving Trump this kind of attention. People like me and other bloggers and journalists should ignore him. I used to think that. I’ve changed my mind, because Trump is on the verge of gaining some serious support. Franklin Graham has said he might support a Trump run.

Franklin Graham is serious support, because he is the heir to the Billy Graham evangelical dynasty. Among evangelical Christians, who are a significant base of the Republican party, the Grahams are only second to Jesus and God. Billy Graham is in essence the “President” of the evangelical movement. He has spent time with nearly every actual President since Truman. His radio and television sermons have had a total of more than two billion listeners over the years. If the Graham organization gets behind Trump a large number of conservatives will take him much more seriously.

To put this in perspective, Franklin Graham is the guy who said President Obama was born a Muslim simply because his father was a Muslim. He agrees with Trump that the President has questions to answer about his birth. Myths about the President are furthered because people like Graham have a huge audience that is willing to believe them without much question.

The truly frightening thing about all of this is that the moderate Republican candidates turn out to be Tim Pawlenty, and Mike Huckabee. Pawlenty and Huckabee are in no way moderates.  Pawlenty is a hard-core fiscal conservative, and Huckabee is an ordained minister. I view them both as fairly equal on the political spectrum to George W. Bush. The possible candidates for President seem to range from standard conservative to ultra-conservative.  We learned recently that Haley Barbour is out. The field is beginning to narrow. At some point, I believe we will learn that Huckabee is out also. Maybe this is a publicity stunt by Donald Trump, but if it’s not his chances seem to be getting better. I don’t even know what to think about that.

Cutting Taxes To Fix The Budget? Really?

The Republican congressman who chairs the House Budget Committee, Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan,  unveiled the Republican budget proposal for the next fiscal year. I thought it was a little confusing. In the last election the Tea Party had a big influence. Supposedly this was based on the idea that we needed fiscal responsibility. The deficit is too large, the debt is out of control and we have to do something about it. The Republican party seized this message and said they were the ones to fix it. They won many elections and gained control of the House. They now have the opportunity to prove to their base that they are serious about fiscal matters. So I was a little confused about the fact that the proposal won’t balance the budget.  It calls for trillions of dollars in spending cuts over the next decade, but still doesn’t get us back to even, How is that possible? That’s a good question. The answer is that Congressman Ryan’s proposal would also lower the highest tax rate to 25%. That’s %10 less than now.

Why aren’t we seriously concerned with balancing the budget? Republicans have taken Tea Party enthusiasm and used it to propose a radical government limiting agenda without attempting to solve the issue the Tea Party is supposed to be all about. Cutting government spending may have some merit. Balancing the budget and reducing the national debt makes sense. To accomplish that goal with a one-sided approach that assumes government programs are just to expensive isn’t the answer. Why don’t we examine the fact that tax revenues are down. As soon as President Bush cut income taxes in 2001 we went from surplus to deficit. That trend has continued. All the while Republicans have opposed tax increases on anyone, and measures to enforce tax collection on corporations. They proposed cutting the IRS budget for tax enforcement by $600 million, which could lower tax revenues $4-6 billion, and now they want to lower the top tax rate 10%.

Congressman Ryan’s proposal put forth ideas about changing Medicare and Medicaid. While I don’t necessarily agree with them, at least this can start a debate, and a debate is a good thing.d I’ve said we need to look at 4 things: Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, Defense spending, and tax rates. Working with those things is how we are going to balance the budget. So far Republicans want to cut non-defense discretionary spending by at least $33 billion, probably more. That won’t do any good. Democrats have refused to join the debate over entitlement programs. A lack of involvement won’t do any good. Republicans have refused to discuss defense spending, and now they are proposing lowering tax rates by a huge margin. This isn’t the Bush tax cuts. This proposal cuts over $4 trillion of government spending in the next decade and won’t balance the budget?

We need to address the budget issue, but we can’t do that by intentionally cutting government revenue. The wealthiest Americans might benefit from this proposal but the majority of Americans will suffer.

Honest Disagreements Need Civil Discussion

In the US, Communism, despite its length, is very much a “four-letter word.” Communism is evil. We even called it the “evil empire.” 25 years ago, in the USSR, capitalism was no different.  Communism took away the freedom of its people. Capitalism never provided an adequate chance for some to succeed. Capitalism gave everyone a chance to reach their potential. Communism rendered unemployment nonexistent. Capitalism gave opportunity to all. Communism gave a safety net to all. When are we going to move past the Cold War mentality? When are we going to realize that none of this is true?

Moving away from this style of thinking is very important. It is the only way we move forward as a country. It is important to realize that Communism and Capitalism are both unrealistic styles of economics. They exist as the extremes on a spectrum. Somewhere in the middle is the answer. Where that answer lies is the debate we should all be having. There is historical evidence that neither of these systems works. Soviet Communism fell in the early 1990’s. Chinese Communism has introduced free market ideals. True Capitalism is no better. Lack of government regulation in a capitalist system has brought the global economy to its knees twice in the past century. Once it caused the Great Depression in 1929, and then in 2008 it led to what is now being called the Great Recession. In both cases, we stood teetering on the edge of complete economic collapse. Obviously, we need a new discussion. Actually, we need any discussion at all.

The biggest obstacle in that discussion is civility. At town halls during the healthcare debate, we saw that people were doing all they can to prevent civil discussion. The Tea Party provided a more divided result. Some of them wanted a real protest with real ideas. Others were just out to demonize liberals. Lately we have seen fewer examples from the left, but just a few years ago they were not hard to find. We need to move past demonizing those who disagree with us. The fringe groups can be ignored. Those who believe that Pres. Obama is a Muslim, or was not born in this country are obviously unwilling to confront the truth. Those who believe Pres. Bush was intent on conquering the world are misguided.  Those who don’t like a President’s policies should make their arguments and support them. Those who support those policies should listen and respond.  The same idea can be applied to many arguments our country is facing. Do we desire safety or freedom? Most actions that make us more safe restrict our freedoms. The Patriot Act or warrantless wiretapping begun under President Bush may have made us more safe, but they definitely made us less free. Look at the debate on taxes. A flat tax is equal to all in numbers. A 20% tax on all treats everyone equally. However, 20% of the income of someone who makes minimum wage makes it much more difficult for that person to survive than 20% of a person who makes $350,000 a year. A progressive tax is unfair in one way to those who make more because they pay more of their income but they can survive more easily with that tax than a poor person. Things become more difficult when you ask, “How many people who are poor are not working hard enough and how many are unable to break free no matter how hard they work?” Or try this, “How many of the wealthy did nothing to earn their place atop the economic totem pole.? These questions are not simple and we should not treat them as if they are.

Capitalism, and Communism do not work. So where do we go from here? We have to look at ourselves and other countries and ask, “What do we want for this country?” Let’s look at it this way. Communism works. At a certain level. The American family is a Communist society. At least most of them are. All members of the family contribute for the benefit of all. One or both parents, and perhaps other relatives work jobs to bring in an income. Children go to school to obtain an education. At home, they all contribute to the cooking of meals and the upkeep of the home. In this way everyone is given what they need to survive by contributing what they can. However, there are often strands of capitalism in the American home. Children may be given an allowance. Parents may have disposable income. With that money they may buy personal possessions that offer no contribution to the family as a whole. If one child works does more chores than another they may receive more allowance. One child will not be thrown out on the street though. The family always provides the necessities of life.  This is because the basis of family is a love for each other. At some point a family member may go beyond the strength of that love. Acts can be committed that will cause a family to turns its back on one of its members. Perhaps they consistently take advantage of family members to the detriment of the family. Perhaps they refuse to commit to changing their habits that hurt the family. Things can occur that go beyond the bounds of love. This is where one of the tenets of capitalism lives. The idea that we cannot help everyone. Sometimes we must do what is right for ourselves.  If you apply the concepts of capitalism and communism to your family it will change your views. This makes it personal. Take those feelings and extend them to your neighborhood, your school, your city, state and country. We must realize that Capitalism is the concept that everyone has the chance to achieve anything they want. It is the idea that this blog could become a worldwide read publication that makes this writer a lot of money. Communism is the concept that we should always provide for the least fortunate of us. The idea that even those who try and fail deserve a safety net to allow them to survive. Government should provide us with our most basic needs. It is the idea that if this blog never makes this writer anything I would still have shelter and food.

The entire point of this article is that extremes are unrealistic. Completely deregulated capitalism will destroy us. The unfortunate nature of human beings leads to greed and individualism. Communism doesn’t work either. If we de-incentivize the idea of success, we will never progress.  People need freedom to progress. People also need a safety net to provide for the greater population. Somewhere in between is the answer for the American people, or any other people.  With a civil discussion we can find the right balance between government support and individual success. We can find the balance between safety and security. We have honest disagreements, and we need honest discussions. Civil discussions will lead to the progress the American people yearn for.

An Interesting Vote

NPR had a very interesting report this evening.  The House of Representatives voted to stop a 465 million dollar a year program that builds an engine for the f-35 Joint Strike Fighter. This is not the primary engine, which is made by Pratt & Whitney. This is an alternative engine built by GE. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called it “the extra engine” in a Senate hearing. The Bush Administration wanted to kill the program. The Obama administration would also. The Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps agree. Most importantly the Defense Department says it’s unnecessary and the money could be used elsewhere. The House just did what they all recommended. Why is this an interesting story then? It seems pretty cut and dry.

The interesting part is the vote. It was 233 to 198. The majority of Republicans voted to sustain funding. They voted to keep a program that costs hundreds of millions of dollars a year when the people who benefit from that program want to get rid of it.  This is the party that is currently talking about the need for drastic budget cuts. This is the party claiming to be all about fiscal restraint. House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan proposed cutting billions of dollars from programs like HeadStart, and the funding for Pell Grants. Now his party votes to maintain funding for an “extra engine” for a fighter jet we probably don’t even need. Just last year after building 187 F-22 fighters the Defense Department decided they didn’t need them. They would rather put more time and money into the F-35. So now the question is will we need the F-35? Or after billions of dollars spent will they say we need to move on to the next generation? Defense spending has to be brought under control.

That is just a quick thought. I will talk a lot more about defense spending this weekend when I write my opinion on the upcoming budget battle. We will soon see if anyone in Congress is willing to tackle the deficit issue. Likely, we’ll see a bunch of people saying what they think is important to getting elected. Campaign season never really stops these days.

Was The Bush Doctrine Right?

With the fall of Hosni Mubarak, and Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, an interesting question could be raised about the future of the Arab world.  Protests have happened in Yemen, and Algeria. Governments in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan have all taken measures to control the price of food, and necessities. The government in Iran is refusing permits for groups wanting to rally in support of the Egyptian movement. All over the Arab world autocratic regimes are taking note. They are realizing that even in a dictatorship, power rests on the support of the people. Sometimes it is true support and sometimes it is merely a fear of voicing opposition. In any case, if the people are determined enough they will always win. So, when we look at the Arab world today we have to ask,”Was Pres. Bush right?”

The answer is yes. Well, he was partially right. A people taking control of their destiny, forcing out a dictator is inspirational to other nations. Egypt is providing people in other countries with the sense that they could do the same thing. Pres. Bush wasn’t completely right, though. While the possible rise of Egyptian democracy will inspire others, the rise of Iraqi democracy really didn’t.  The Bush Doctrine said if we put a stable democracy in Iraq other people in the Arab world we see the greatness of democracy and force their governments to embrace democratic reform. That didn’t exactly happen. We invaded Iraq in 2003 and 8 years later their democracy is still struggling. Why do I have more hope for Egypt? Why do I think Egypt could be the catalyst for change that Pres. Bush wanted Iraq to be? Simply put Iraq didn’t have a revolution. The Iraqi people did not stand up against Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi people didn’t fight for their freedom. We did it for them.  True freedom only comes to people who want it bad enough. Egypt had a homegrown revolution. People from all walks of life, all ages, all religions, stood up as one voice and said, “We’ve had enough. Give us our freedom.”  That’s the difference. The Egyptian people stood together. In both Iraq, and Afghanistan we have run into populations that have more division that consensus. Iraqis see themselves as Sunni, Shi’ite, or Kurdish. Afghanistan is a loose collection of tribes that are as likely to war with each other as they are with the U.S. or Al-Qaeda.  If they do not want to work together it will be very difficult for any central government to make them.

Pres. Bush was right that people living under a dictator could be driven to demand freedom. Seeing another country throw off the shackles of autocracy could cause a domino effect. He was wrong, like so many Presidents before him, that we could make it happen through military might. You can’t free a people. You can help, but they have to want it. Pres. Obama was criticized early in the Egyptian protests for not supporting pro-democracy groups.  He should have spoken more strongly. It is hard to sell the idea that we want to spread democracy, unless your dictator is helping us out. America’s pro-democracy activities around the world are hypocritical at best. Mubarak was an ally. He was very helpful. His government provided a moderate vision in an unstable region. They even had a relationship with Israel. He was also a brutal dictator, and when the people stood up to remove him the U.S. should have been very vocal in their support.  It was a tight rope for the Obama administration. While they may have wavered a bit, I think they made it from one side to the other. Now, we must provide all the support we can to helping Egypt on a course to democracy. Today the question of whether Pres. Bush was right is irrelevant. The question should be how can we insure that the vision of a free Arab world comes true.