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This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

Justice Stevens has apparently been playing a lot of baseball lately, playing the position of left fielder in a ballpark with a very large left field.  He’s talking about essentially doing away with the second amendment.  His has been opposed to the death penalty and held this position on campaign finance for a very long time.

I agree with Justice Stevens on gerrymandering.  I would set up a Federal Congressional Districting Commission, for a lack of a better term,  to review states’ redistricting decisions.  States could still draw their own U.S. House districts but could no longer draw them for partisan advantage.

There will be a future post on this blog about campaign finance with more detail, perhaps this week.  Voters need, at the very least, to know where the money  that is going to candidates is coming front so that they can make informed decisions about their representation in Congress. Congress should pass full-disclosure of all political contributions.

As a Liberal Democrat that the Second Amendment embodies the right to self-defense and the right to life.  For that to mean anything, you have to have the right to protect your own life.  So,        I oppose any constitutional amendment that would empower the state, at any level, to prohibit gun ownership for adults.

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In the 1920s and 30s, the U.S. economy was a pretty freewheeling affair. Taxes were low and regulation of the economy was minimal.  Libertarians were as close to utopia as they had ever been.  When the first Franklin Roosevelt administration took office, they were confronted with the Great Depression.  The New Deal that they fashioned in response, though it seemed radical at the time, was actually a very practical, mainstream, economic response.
The Conservatives were saying that this was a natural fluctuation of the market and that it would recover on its own.  On the Far-Left, the Socialists were saying that this is capitalism at its worst and a great example of how it doesn’t work.  We need to replace it and come up with a completely different  economic system.

FDR was a pragmatic Progressive and didn’t enter the White House with a bold agenda for dealing with the Great Depression.  He had ideas but nothing big and bold.  In airplane pilot’s lingo “He created the New Deal by the seat of his pants.”  Saying that the Roosevelt Administration made it up as they went along is probably too loose but they put in ideas as they got them.  They had not developed a New Deal agenda as far back as the 1932 presidential campaign.

The Socialists were calling for steep new taxes on the wealthy.  I’m sure they wouldn’t have left what was left of the middle class off the hook.  They called for nationalization of industries and creation of a Nordic-like welfare state.   The Libertarians were saying that government should stay out of the way and let the economy fix itself, if anything lower taxes and regulations on private capital.

FDR’s New Deal was in the middle.  It affirmed American capitalism as a good system that empowers millions of Americans to be successful.  What it lacked, and what the New Deal provided, was an insurance system, paid for by the economy itself, for people who need help when the system failed.  This is how Social Security, Unemployment Insurance and Welfare Insurance were created.  The New Deal, included, as well, new infrastructure investment to do needed work that the private sector was neglecting and to provide employment to millions of Americans.

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Nanny State

The Fiscal Times: Opinion: Edward Morrissey: Why Michael Bloomberg’s Nanny Campaign Will Fail

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This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

New York, New York, what a city.  Trust me, that sounds funnier with my fake New York accent than it does with my fake Philadelphia accent, for some reason.  New York might be the only big city in America except, perhaps, San Francisco that produces popular politicians who believe that it’s their duty to protect their constituents from themselves.  And that they do not get any negative political feedback as a result.

Maybe New Yorkers believe that they are too dumb to decide for themselves what or how much food and drink they should consume or whether or not they should smoke or when they should go to bed. Should they be able to smoke marijuana or have to go to jail for their own good if they do smoke or possess marijuana. Should they be allowed to look at pornography or not? Should they be able to gamble their own money or not?  What’s the next NYC prohibition, sex before marriage or sex with someone of the same sex?

Only in New York and perhaps San Francisco could big city politicians get away with trying to micro-manage the lives of their constituents. Just about everywhere else they would be seen for what they are which are nanny statists. You think the welfare state is too much government. Well some of those high taxes you would pay would also be directed towards the nanny state. Having cops on the street to put people to bed at night or take cigarettes or Doritos out of their mouths does not come for free.

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Tax Day Not a Holiday For This Guy

The Dish: Opinion: Andrew Sullivan: If America Had Scandinavia’s Tax Rate

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This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

Jonathan Chait had a column in the, formerly liberal (ha ha) New Republic magazine arguing that, as we celebrate tax day, the U.S. should be thinking about increasing taxes on everyone across the board except for the working poor.  He based his argument on the example of Scandinavia.  They have much higher tax rates than we do and have traditionally had a very strong economy.  They have good public services with a very generous welfare state and, as a result, have had strong economic outcomes.

Ross Douhat, a columnist for the, lets say, progressive New York Times opinion page wrote a response to Chait’s column.  In it, he laid out why higher taxes work in Scandinavia and why they wouldn’t work here.  For example, Sweden is physically about the size of Turkey but has only about nine-million people.  Sweden is also not only energy independent but also a net-exporter of oil and gas. They produce a hell of a lot of energy with a lot of land and a small population to take care of. To put it in simple terms, they can afford to be generous with their welfare state.

The U.S., on the other hand, is physically the size of a freaking continent going from one ocean to another, with a three-thousand mile border on the North with Canada and a two-thousand mile border with Mexico on the South and a population of over three-hundred and ten million people.  It is a net-importer of oil.  We are still paying other countries for our energy supplies and paying them to defend them.

We have a seventeen-trillion dollar national debt and have been basically stuck in, or trying to recover from, one recession or another since 2001. We simply do not have the resources to pay for what we currently owe to our population.  We also have a high poverty rate compared to the rest of the developed world.  Our working class is struggling just to pay their current tax obligations.  Most Americans simply can’t afford Mr. Chait’s, and others, socialist, big government tax rates now.

When our economy was booming in the 1980s and 1990s, our taxes were low and our government budget to GDP ratio was low. In plain English, the percentage of the national economy that the Federal Government spent was low in the 1980s and 90s.  In both decades, we had low unemployment, high economic growth and record low poverty levels.  This is what we are trying to get back to and we need to protect middle class tax payers by not increasing their rates.  At the same time, we need to invest more in infrastructure, education and job training so that more Americans can live in freedom and not depend on income assistance.

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This post was originally posted at The New Democrat on Blogger

In the fall of 2011, Congress, with a Republican House and Democratic Senate, reached  a debt ceiling agreement with President Obama.  As part of that agreement,  Congress took on the monumental task of finding an additional two-trillion dollars, I believe, in savings when they wrote the Federal budget for fiscal year 2012.  The U.S. Congress has only three tasks every year, passing the budget, the appropriations bills that follow, and performing oversight over the executive branch.

Saying that Congress has the monumental task of writing the budget is like saying that Joe the cab driver has the monumental task of driving somebody to the airpot.  That’s his job.  Joe probably drives somebody to the airport at least once a day. Or that Sally has the monumental task of waking up in the morning and getting ready to go to work. Unless Sally is unemployed, this is something that she does every weekday.  For Congress, their routine duties area virtually beyond their capabilities.  The petty, short-sighted, and utterly irrational partisanship consumes Congress everyday.

I’m a Democrat and I don’t believe that both sides are equally at fault here.  The Democratic leaders are willing to working with the Republican Leaders to do what needs to be done, whereas the Republican Leadership is scared (pardon the word) shitless of working with Democrats on anything because of the Tea Party. But Republicans have of course the Tea Party to contend with and not having to deal with a primary challenge if they do not compromise with Democrats and get a real deal. But Democrats have lets call them the Occupy Wall Street faction of their party that they do not want to have to deal with when they are running for reelection as well. And you prevent that from happening by not negotiating with Republicans especially on entitlements.

So, we are left with gridlock.  The art of the possible, in the words of the great Progressive Democratic Senator Hubert Humphrey, becomes the skill of the impossible. Where both sides become experts on nothing, that is doing nothing as well as perhaps actual experts on nothing. Because if either side compromises they risk getting primaries,(to use a Congressional term) in the next election. “Hey I might not get everything I want or what I get perhaps even looks like nothing or the twin of nothing, but at least the other side aint getting anything either”. Which is why the perfect name for any Washington pro sports franchise would be the Washington Gridlocks where nothing gets done.

Washington Gridlock

 

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Source: This piece was originally posted at The New Democrat 

Bob Newhart’s unique sense of humor was the thematic core of the Bob Newhart Show.  If you are  wondering who the Bob Newhart Show was named after, you are probably also wondering what state Florida is in.  I make that crack because it is a pretty good example of Bob Newhart’s sense of humor.  It was very dry, like the Mojave Desert, with no real physical or emotional expression.  He would say very funny lines with a completely straight face.

Newhart played psychologist Bob Hartley, who lived and ran a private practice in Chicago.  He played himself in the role as a very straight-laced, almost totally unemotional person who delivered a lot of great lines as if he were on stage. This is sort of hard to explain in writing  but he would deliver great sarcastic lines with a straight face that someone who isn’t very quick or lacks a great sense of humor could easily take seriously.  Anyone with a quick wit could easily tell that he was joking.

To give you an example, Bill Daily who played the Hartley’s neighbor in their apartment building was always coming over without knocking on the door first and would just walk in. After he would come into the Hartley apartment, Dr. Bob would say, “Come in Howard,” after Howard was already in the apartment.  That might sound simplistic and trivial but Newhart had such a quick and accurate way of uttering such lines that they were hilarious.

 

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It seems to me, an outsider, even though I live in the Washington area, that Secretary Kathleen Sebelius stepped down, at least partially, because she was tired of dealing with the idiots in the Congressional Tea Party.  These stupid and rabidly partisan members, especially in the House, showed her not an atom of respect.  In hearings, they would use all of their time attacking the Affordable Care Act vociferously and mindlessly without regard to fact or reason.  They were so ignorant and rude that, many times, they would not let her respond to their own questions.  Secretary Sebelius would just have to sit there and listen to their rude, stupid, and ignorant verbal garbage.

The 1964 Civil Rights Act was one of the best pieces of legislation that the U.S.Congress ever passed and that a President ever signed into law.  It is the  overwhelming positive piece of the  legacy of President Lyndon Johnson.  It ended legal racial discrimination, the denial of access to public accommodations to people because of their race.  It is still the law of the land because the property rights argument has never held water, when it comes to racial discrimination.

Former Florida Governor, Jeb Bush, President George W. Bush’s younger brother, has never shown that keen an interest in being President of the United States, that drive that says you not only want the job but that you believe you are the most qualified person in the country to do the job.  He would have several strikes against him in the eyes of the ignorant far-right in the GOP (see above), immigration, education, civil rights, common sense, etc.  He’s simply not dumb enough to be a member of that part of the party.  I don’t see how he could win the GOP nomination and he seems to know this.  He appears to be very reluctant to walk into the weed-whacker of the Tea Party’s ignorance, stupidity and bigotry.  This is good for the Democrats and bad for the GOP (Thank you Richard Nixon for your southern strategy) because he would be far and away their best and most qualified candidate for president.

 

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