Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Poll: Americans Think Rich Should Pay More Taxes

A CBS News/NYT poll says: "Almost three-quarters of Americans think it is a good idea to raise taxes on people making more than $250,000 per year, according to the latest CBS News/New York Times poll. In fact, two-thirds of Americans think the tax code should be changed so that middle-class Americans pay less than they do now, while "upper income" people pay more."

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rush Limbaugh Is a Socialist!!!!!!!

Well, not exactly. But, I found this sentence from The Daily Beast insightful:

It’s not at all surprising that when Rush Limbaugh (approval rating: 19 percent) lectures Americans about how Barack Obama is a socialist, well, people just might start deciding that they prefer socialism by default.

Might be a good point!

New Polls Good for Democrats

There are several new polls and studies recently released, and they are all very good for Obama, Democrats, and (I believe) America.

According to a Gallup poll:

Over two-thirds of Americans -- 71% -- have a great deal or a fair amount of confidence in President Obama to do or recommend the right thing for the economy
According to the same poll, America trusts the Democratic leaders in Congress 13% more than the Republican leaders in Congress when it comes to the economy.

In other polling news, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll, an lofty 71% of Americans disagree with former Vice President Cheney's statement that Obama has made the country less safe.

Finally, according to a new paper by Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz, Dems have obtained a permanent political majority in the U.S.. I will let this table, from Abramowitz's study, tell the story:

Taxes -- The Rich Don't Pull Their Weight

From The Nation:

The [new Institute for Policy Studies] report provides a good dose of historical perspective at a time when Republicans and too many Democrats fulminate at the possibility of raising the highest tax rate from 35 percent to 39.6 percent for households earning over $250,000. It notes that in 2006 (the most recent IRS data) the 139,000 taxpayers reporting incomes of $2 million or more paid just a 23 percent rate thanks to mega-loopholes; in 1955, people earning over $2 million in 2006 dollars paid a 49 percent rate. The top 400 taxpayers paid a 51 percent in 1955; in 2006 they paid just 17 percent of their incomes in federal income tax.

Health Care -- We Have the Wrong Mindset

When one discusses the prospect of universal health care, inevitably some conservative will utter the "s" word ("Socialist!").

But I wonder, why isn't American's utilization of government-owned/operated fire stations and police forces socialist?

Consider the reasons why the U.S. uses public police stations and fire stations:

1. It's a valuable service to the public from which we all benefit.

2. One's ability to obtain these essential services should not depend upon wealth

3. The private sector can not adequately provide such services

4. Because citizens do not have a choice as to when police and firefighting services will be needed, the private sector would price such services as high as possible to take advantage of the compulsion.

Notice how each of these reasons applies to the prospect of universal healthcare insurance:

1. It would be a valuable service to the public. Nothing is more important than the health of a nation's citizens. If the citizenry is unhealthy, productivity will drop, and the bills will be pushed off upon the healthy. Further, because there are so many uninsured citizens, the annual premium for a family is increased by approximately $1100. If there were universal health care, the public would benefit a great deal

2. One's ability to obtain health services should not depend upon wealth. The old saying goes, "Well, at least you have your health." The idea behind this phrase is that nothing is more important than one's health. Yet, under our privatized health insurance system, "health" is a commodity for insurers to buy and sale. It is therefore marginalized, which is immoral.

3. The private sector can not adequately provide health insurance. Prices are so high that only the middle- and upper-class can afford insurance. Further, those that need insurance the absolute most -- those with debilitating and life-threatening illnesses -- can not obtain the insurance because of their preexisting conditions. Moreover, insurers spend significant amounts of money in legal and other fees attempting to avoid coverage. It is an unjust and inefficient system, because it is privatized. The private sector is not covering Americans adequately.

4. Because citizens do not have a choice as to when they need a doctor, insurers have priced coverage as high as is permitted by the law and . Hence, the leading cause of bankruptcy is medial bills.

Thus, the reasons for our public police and firefighting services are identical to the reasons for a public health insurance system. In light of that fact, why is it that public police and firefighting services is consistent with democracy, yet universal healthcare (according to conservatives) is not?

European Model Avoids Risk of Inflation

As we know, European countries are suffering from the same economic crisis as America. Yet, Europe's efforts to slow and end the recession do not run the risk of inflation. America, on the other hand, will almost certainly suffer inflation in a few years. What's the difference?

In Europe, each country has implemented a fairly elaborate social safety net. To name just two such measures, European countries offer universal health care and robust minimum income measures. There are many others, of course.

As a result, European countries do not require a gargantuan stimulus package, because (a) human suffering is kept to a minimum through these safety nets, and (b) such government spending replaces the lack of private economic demand.

Thus, inflation is not likely to result in Europe.

Republican Wrong on Taxes!

Ari Fleischer published an op-ed in today's WSJ, in which Fleischer argued that the Bush tax cuts are good and that raising taxes would be a form of socialism. Not surprisingly, Fleischer made several deceptive claims in his piece.

First, Fleischer gives the impression that Obama's tax plans constitute a radical redistribution of wealth. Not true. In fact, Obama's tax plan would keep the tax rate for the richest Americas at approximately 10% less than it was for most of the Reagan administration. Cite.

Second, even under Obama's modest tax increase upon the wealthy, we still would have just about the lowest tax rate in 100 years. See the graph at this site. In other words, the richest Americans currently enjoy almost the lowest rates in a century, and would continue to enjoy such rates under Obama's plan. Hardly radical.

Third, Fleishcher deceptively spends a great deal of time discussing income. As Fleischer knows, that is not the proper metric for measuring wealth, as the wealthy enjoy many exclusions from income and are able to suppress income in various ways. The significant statistic net worth. In American, the top 20% of Americans hold 84% of America's wealth, which, of course, leaves only 16% of the remaining wealth for the other 80% of us. Cite. Thus, it seems justifiable that the rich carry a heavier tax burden.

Fourth, the tax cuts enacted by Bush were very damaging. Bush took a budget surplus and turned it into the largest budget deficit in the history of America. The tax cuts were a large part of that, because they drastically decreased government revenue. Cite.

In other words, Fleischer is wrong.

Fox & Friends -- Crazy Crazy Crazy

This morning on Fox & Friends, the warmongering was in full force! The hosts were speaking with a guest, and each was advocating putting American troops on the ground in Somalia in an effort to end the piracy in the region.

That is crazy. Here's why:

1. Our foray in Somalia when Clinton was President was an unmitigated disaster. The region is even more lawless now.

2. We are already fighting a war in Iraq

3. We are already fighting a war in Afghanistan

4. We don't understand the region. Thus, it would be impossible to know how to stabilize the region

5. It is unclear why non-government actors (the pirates) warrant such drastic action. True, these pirate hijackings are quite serious, but they generally present no danger to America's safety.

6. We can't afford another war

7. The world's opinion that we are too war-happy would be reinforced

8. There is a heavy Islamic movement in Somalia; if we go to war there, it will further anger Muslims.

9. Who would we fight? There the limited government in the country is powerless, save for a few discrete regions. Thus, there's no defined target

10. Could we not accomplish the same objective by paroling the waters in the area more aggressively?

11. Etc, etc, etc

It would be a terrible idea to engage Somalia in a war.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Area 51 Article, Fascinating!

The Los Angeles Times has a fascinating article on Area 51. The Times conducted interviews with several former occupants of Area 51. Apparently, lots of top secret technology was engineered (and reverse engineered) at Area 51, but there is no truth to the UFO rumors (surprise, surprise).

Worth a read!

During Great Depression, Economy Had Upticks

Paul Krugman (my favorite blogger) has an important post on the economy. You should check it out. It has an illustrative chart, too. It argues that we shouldn't get too happy by the recent uptick in the economy, because even the Great Depression saw brief periods of improved economic production.

As a side note, Obama seems to understand this. As reported by The WSJ, on Friday, Obama noted that we should be optimistic that the economy has briefly improved, but we should not be too enthusiastic, because the economic situation is still extremely dire. Thus, Obama is walking the fine line between realism and Motivator-in-Chief.

The NYT Has a Great Editorial on Health Care Reform

The NYT has a great editorial on health care reform. It ends with this (accurate) zinger:

"A bipartisan agreement would be nice, but what the country needs right now is effective health care reform."

Well said.

Obama Hurts America & American Ideals

The Washington Post notes that Obama's DOJ appealed a court order by District Court Judge Bates. The order requires that military detainees in an American-operated military base in Afghanistan receive access to the U.S. federal courts. For the following reasons, it is extremely disappointing that the Obama DOJ appealed this order.

Obama's decisions to close Gitmo and engage the world in diplomacy have made significant improvements to our reputation and moral status in the world. This recent headway is at least partly responsible for Obama's impressively convincing China & Russia to sign a joint statement condemning the North Korean missile launch. These facts are proof that a more humanitarian, diplomatic approach to governing is effective and makes us safe.

Nonetheless, by appealing this order, Obama has rejected the humanitarian approach. Instead, Obama has opted to run roughshod over foreign countries by ignoring their citizens' interest in freedom from non-substantiated and potentially capricious arrests. That is, Obama has opted to engage in the Bush-era tactics that are so unpopular and controversial abroad. Just as Bush made us less safe by angering the entire world with such actions, Obama has made us less safe. Thus, Obama should be condemned for appealing this order.

But leaving these practical arguments aside, there are moral and ethical reasons why Obama's decision is extremely disappointing.

Detainees' ability to access the federal court system should not be contingent upon their constitutional right -- if any -- to do so. Instead, America should recognize the importance of adherence to basic notions of justice, human dignity, and fair-play.

There is a reason that the drafters of the Bill of Rights created the Fourth Amendment and the Due Process Clause: Too often, those in power abuse their power, and innocent peoples can be swept up in the government's machinery. Such abuses violate America's core principles. America was created, in part, as a rebuke of Star Cambers (definition here), sham trials, and police abuses. When we created this country, we made the fundamental choice that interests in human dignity, such as the freedom from arbitrary seizures, are more important than whatever safety can be wrought from arrests without due process.

And Obama has violated these basic notions. He has endorsed actions where America can pick alleged terrorists off the street, place them in so-called Black Sites, and detain them indefinitely, without ever offering proof of their guilt, and without ever entertaining evidence of innocence. The potential for abuse is obvious and overwhelming. In fact, such tactics by Bush resulted in the detention of many, many innocent people -- dentions that robbed innocents of nearly a decade of their life!

By appealing this court order, Obama has opted to continue Bush's mistakes. He has decided that the above-referenced interests in human dignity do not apply to non-Americans. This sort of attitude -- which was pushed by Bush -- is precisely why Obama has taken it upon himself to make efforts to improve America's moral status in the world. Yet, Obama is now repeating the same mistakes!

Mr. Obama, America is better than this! Please, drop this appeal.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Success for Obama; Neo-Cons Proved Wrong Again

In an op-ed, Charles Krauthammer criticized Obama for being too compromising with other countries, and to prove that such an approach is dangerous, Krauthammer offered as evidence the inability of the U.N. Security Council to issue a rebuke of the N. Korea missile launch. (I responded to this op-ed here) Krauthammer alleged that the Council's failure to act showed that Obama's diplomatic approach to foreign policy is "fatuous" and ineffective and weak. Other right-wingers have said substantially the same.

Well, they were all wrong! Today, Obama and other world leaders, using diplomacy, convinced Russia and staunch N. Korea supporter China to sign onto a joint statement condemning N. Korea's missile launch. Cite.

There was little cooperation between Russia, China, and America on such matters during the Bush presidency, particularly during the latter years. This is probably due to the fact that Bush -- as Krauthammer and Newt Gingrich support -- simply mandated inflexible conditions and refused to compromise. Thus, it should not be a surprise that Bush received little assistance from the world with respect to his agenda.

Obama, on the other hand, has sought to strengthen our position in the world by working with other world leaders. Obama's ability to convince Russia to sign onto this joint statement is significant, as there is no doubt that Russia was not inclined to do so. Obama's ability to convince China to sign on is monumental, as China is quite pro-North Korea.

Thus, America's relationships with Russia and China are stronger, and we have used these relationships to make us safer via the Security Council. Also, it is highly unlike that Obama would have obtained these concessions from Russia and China had he utilized the fiery, inflexible approach espouses by the right-wingers.

Diplomacy can get results. Diplomacy has made us safer. This is proof.

Great Quote on FDR From The Nation

Great quote regarding FDR found in The Nation:

FDR created the modern American state, offering a pragmatic, humane alternative to the radical individualism and anti-statism that had long hindered the fulfillment of the American promise of equality and opportunity.
FDR is my favorite President, and that quote highlights the reasons why.

Karl Rove Lies Again!

In this WSJ op-ed, Karl Rove argues that Obama is the most divisive, polarizing President of all time. In the video below, Chuck Todd explains why that is objective and absolutely false.

Todd makes several points, but the two principal points are: (1) 1 in 4 Republicans approve of Obama, whereas only 1 in 20 approved of Bush a few months after 9/11; and (2) The GOP has shrunk, and thus only the most conservative of Americans are Republicans right now; thus, if 1 in 4 Republicans still approve of Obama, it is a significant testament to Obama's widespread and general popularity.

Here's the video, a must-watch:

Karl Rove Is a Slimy, Sad Creature

As reported by Politico, Karl Rove recently engaged in a shouting match in a restaurant with an ex-GOP staffer. Read the Politico story for details.

I post this story to point out one slimy detail regarding Rove that came out. Apparantly, in the course of the argument, the following exchange occurred:

Roe: ". . . You guys [Bush et al.] wouldn't be in the White House without Tom [the Republican for whom Roe worked]. And you made these really degrading comments about him that offended a lot of people."


Rove: "Well, I have a file on the things Tom Feeney said about George Bush."

Roe: "That says more about you than me that you kept a file on Tom Feeney. This guy was so restrained in his desire to criticize the president — even against this staff's advice."

Rove: "I have a file."

Roe: "I'm right here. Tell me to my face what's in that file."

Rove: "I'll send you the file.

What a creep! It takes a real political scumbag to "keep a file" on criticisms that others levy against your party's President. Can you imagine Rove, bending over stacks of newspapers, cutting out articles that criticize Bush, and then meticulously filing them away in his office file cabinet.

Republian Party -- A Part of "No"

The Republican Party doesn't support:


2. The stimulus package (even though it contains billions in tax cuts)

3. The bank bailouts

4. The bailout of AIG

5. The auto industry loans

6. Running deficits during a severe recession (yet, when the Dems try to do something about the deficits -- like letting the tax rates return to their 2001 status -- the GOP is opposed to that, too)

7. Diplomacy with Iran

8. Diplomacy with N. Korea

9. Diplomacy with Russia

10. Ending the war in Iraq

11. Health care reform

12. Government steps toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions

13. Etc, etc, etc

Here's a great video from which I got the idea for this post:

How the GOP Can Resurrect Itself

I am no fan of the Republican Party. That said, it is fun to think about political strategy. If I were a Republican, I would implement the following strategy to resurrect the GOP:

First, I would change the party's position on immigration. Latinos traditionally associate themselves with the Dem Party. Yet, polls consistently show that Latinos are actually quite conservative in their economic and social positions. Thus, there must be some reason why Latinos are shunning their more natural fit, the GOP. The answer is undoubtedly the GOP's position on immigration. Irrespective of the merits of the GOP's immigration arguments, it can not be doubted that conservatives' fiery rhetoric regarding the issue dissuades Latinos from signing up for the GOP. Given the poll numbers, it seems that, if the GOP becomes a party that seeks to accommodate and welcome immigrants into this country, the GOP would score a bloc of over 37.4 million potential-voters! Also, this position would reach out to moderate Americans who are turned off by the GOP's staunch, sharp position on immigration.

Second, the GOP needs to ditch the religious right as a political base. The religious right is not a sufficiently large portion of the population to serve as a political base. Yet, the policy positions that the religious right espouses are divisive and defeat the GOP's attempts to build a larger tent. Also, if the GOP turns away from the religious right, it will not lose them as voters; after all, the religious right will never vote for Democrats.

I don't want to see the GOP come into power. But, if I were a Republican, the above would be my strategy.

Democrats Can Bury the GOP

I am going to play "Democratic Strategist" today... I believe that there is an argument that could literally end the GOP, if the Dems pushed it hard enough and long enough. The argument goes like this: (1) the current recession was caused by the rampant speculation and unregulated transactions of bankers, Wall Street, and corporations; (2) the bankers, Wall Street, and corporations were permitted to make these actions because of the recent obsession with deregulation; (3) the GOP is responsible for the deregulation; and thus (4) the GOP caused the current economic crisis.

Here are the details...

Eighty percent of the American public blames banks, financial institutions, and large corporations for the economic crisis, says a Washington Post-ABC News poll. If this outrage can be redirected toward the GOP, the Dems would profit a great deal. To redirect this outrage toward the GOP, Dems should -- and can -- make the case that the GOP allowed these banks, financial institutions, and large corporations to wreck the economy. The key is concentrating on the GOP's obsession with deregulation.

During the years leading up the the Great Depression, Wall Street was rampant with wild speculation. Men (it was only men) were getting very, very rich by placing bets on the stock market. Because the government failed to regulate these acts, the market became artificially inflated. When the bubble popped, the Great Depression resulted. Thus, a lack of oversight permitted banks and Wall Street to get greedy and destroy the economy.

During Roosevelt's presidency, tight regulations over the economy were implemented, and they remained on the books for approx fifty years (until President Reagan). During this fifty year period of regulation, speculation and other shady economy tricks were kept to a minimum. As a result, this fifty year period of regulation saw robust financial success and the creation of a middle-class; true, there were a few recessions, but they were short-lived and relatively minor.

Then came Reagan. President Reagan and his conservative compatriots failed to learn the lessons of history, and thus they deregulated the economy to its pre-Depression condition. As a result, wild speculation resumed, and the financial sector grew and grew and grew. Soon, a huge bubble formed in the 1980s, resulting in the savings and loan crisis, the biggest economy crisis since the Depression.

Yet, the GOP continued to push deregulation, and thus bankers and Wall Street continued to speculate. Wall Street invented credit-default swaps and other totally unregulated multi-billion dollar transactions. Corporations and banks bundled together loans into huge packages and sold them off, even though no one knew how much they were worth (these transactions were subject to little or no regulation). The failure to properly regulate and oversee the housing market permitted housing prices to inflate. All of these unregulated economy entities soon became far overpriced, and when the bubble burst, the current recession resulted.

This was all precipitated by banks, corporations, and Wall Street. Further, banks, corporations, and Wall Street were allowed to make these transactions only because of the GOP's obsession with deregulation.

Thus, the GOP caused the current recession.

If this argument is made as convincingly and agressively and consistently as the Dems' anti-Bush arguments, it would bring the GOP to its knees.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Republicans Will Tax Poor, Give Rich Free Pass

Check out this Think Progress post on the GOP's tax plan. Apparantly, their proposal would actually raise taxes for the middle- and lower-class, while slashing taxes for the rich.