Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Archive for July 2012

President Obama needs to stay strong on ideas of community and infrastructure

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President Obama finally gave the speech on infrastructure that the United States needed to hear in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011. Since the speech came in the heat of the presidential race, and thanks to the “unbiased” take from Fox News, the president’s words were taken out of context and severely distorted.

What has been missing from the context of the heated back-and-forth is why the distortion worries conservatives and teabaggers, and how the idea of infrastructure has slipped into an exclusively Democratic talking point.

Back when I covered politics for a living, I noted that the president-elect had a great opportunity to convince Republicans that infrastructure was a great way to spend needed government stimulus.

Obama had the ideal mix of individualism and community that Americans are supposed to have, and had when building what was a great country.

Liberals and Democratic people like individualism, but wrapped in a community. E.J. Dionne keeps pointing out that William F. Buckley believed in community, but the modern teabaggers thrive on individualism without that lack of community.

When you hear conservatives claim that a single private citizen could have thwarted the Aurora mass shooting, you know that they have no trust in a community function. We may have settled the West with individualism, but people couldn’t have survived out there without community.

The media’s coverage of Fox News’ distortion and Mitt Romney’s hypocrisy was along the lines of “these things happen.” Attention, MSM: Fox “News” is not in the same business you are. Never has been. Never will be. If you did what they did, you would be fired. At Fox “News,” you get a raise.

Since the MSM needs a lesson in covering lies and distortion, they should learn a lesson from The Daily Show and its resident crank, Lewis Black. You find more truth in Black’s rant than in the MSM coverage, and more balanced, too.

You shouldn’t get your news from The Daily Show or the sister show, Colbert Report. On occasion, you should listen to what they have to say, when the MSM (once again) drops the ball.


Toronto gun deaths are up, but still safer than U.S.

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This column was going to be written, even before the horribly tragic Aurora movie theater shooting. Excessive heat increases gun violence, and thanks to a mild winter and very hot summer, gun deaths are on the rise, even in Canada’s largest city.

As bad as things are by Toronto standards, they don’t even compare to a typical day in the United States, even if you don’t count mass shootings such as the Aurora shooting.

The difference, though, is that shootings are still a big deal for Canadians, where the victims of mass shootings in the United States disappear from the public eye. Ask yourself if you remember Christina Taylor Green without Googling her name.

For more of a look into gun violence on both sides of the border, check out our perspective from our sister blog,

Mitt Romney should apologize for cutting jobs as part of his economic record

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Many political pundits are comparing the 2012 presidential election to 2004. Mitt Romney is from Massachusetts, is very rich, doesn’t connect well, and the base doesn’t like him. John Kerry is from Massachusetts, is rich (mostly from his wife), doesn’t connect well, and the base didn’t like him.

John Kerry was attacked by a group that spread lies about Kerry’s war record. Even though the spots didn’t accurately reflect Kerry’s time in Vietnam, the attitude among the MSM was “politics is dirty.” Kerry’s supporters wanted action to correct the inaccuracies in the ad. Kerry also waited too long to respond to the charges. Though Kerry had the truth on his side, he lost the battle.

Mitt Romney was attacked by a group that told the truth about Romney’s role in Bain Capital. Romney took a while to respond. The Romney campaign wants that group to apologize for running the ads. For telling the truth.

The coverage of Romney wanting an apology for ads against him that are true has been louder than the coverage of Kerry wanting a correction for ads against him that were false.

Republicans aren’t used to being attacked. The media gives them an easy ride, Ronald Reagan taught them not to attack each other, and the Dems float like a bee and sting like a butterfly.

When Dems do attack, the media treats their actions as being somehow unfair. This ruins their narrative that Republicans go after Democratic politicians, truth be damned. But the reverse can’t happen.

Dem supporters would certainly love to see their politicians land some blows on the Republicans, especially when they have the truth on their side. They had the truth in 2004 and Kerry didn’t fight back hard enough or soon enough. Obama, as a contrast, is throwing the first punch.

The Romney folks say we shouldn’t be talking about this; they were rather talk about the economy. Well, what Bain Capital and other companies have done — ship jobs overseas — is certainly economic-related.

The fact that companies are sitting on a record amount of cash is economic-related. And those companies appear to be waiting for something (a Romney presidency) to suddenly hire people. But we don’t hear much about that.

Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich, and the other Republican presidential candidates did their very best to warn the GOP not to nominate someone with a business background who had ties to this economic approach, sacrificing jobs for profits. However, the GOP is stuck with Mitt Romney, who has this track record that he isn’t happy that people are talking about.

Romney could run on his work as Massachusetts governor, but is running away from that part of his past. Romney could run on his work in helping the 2002 Winter Olympics, but we haven’t heard much from that part either.

No, Romney wants to run as a businessman. True, George W. Bush tried that approach. To be fair to Romney, he is a better businessman that George W. Bush could have dreamed about. They both had famous fathers so they started out with a silver spoon and a gold briefcase. Bush had the anti-Midas touch; Romney made a lot of money for himself and others. But Romney made this money in great part by getting rid of employees. This is part of his economic record.

Romney’s frustration gears around how the media won’t cover the small sliver of his economic record that he wants to promote. Remember back when Romney talked about all the jobs he created as a result of his work with Bain Capital. Anybody with a paycheck learns quickly the difference between gross and net. Romney used gross numbers and tried to make us think that those were net numbers.

If Romney wants an apology, he should look in the mirror and ask himself whether throwing people out of work for greed is a sound economic policy for the United States. If he doesn’t think so, then he should apologize … to us.

President Obama needs to end Bush tax cuts for everyone

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“I make under $250,000 and I don’t want the Bush tax cuts to continue, even for me.”

In today’s political world, that would be considered a brave and foolish statement. Why would you turn down a chance to have your federal taxes lowered?

Chances are that if you are a Barack Obama supporter and you make under $250,000 (the vast majority of Obama supporters make under a quarter million dollars), you don’t want the president to keep the Bush tax cuts for anyone, much less yourself.

In today’s political world, going against the vast majority of your supporters is brave and foolish. In not-so-olden times, political capital was spent to make bigger, broader decisions to help the country, even at the expense of one’s supporters (Civil Rights Act leaps to mind).

Extending the Bush tax cuts into a potential second Obama term doesn’t qualify as a bigger, broader decision.

These cuts were bad news when they were passed in 2001. The surplus in the Clinton years was taken away and given to the rich. One unjustified war and one questionable war, both of which went unfunded, made a bad situation even worse. During the 2008 election, those in Obama’s camp wanted all the Bush tax cuts gone in 2009, the first year of a potential Obama Administration. They stayed around like a rotting fish, but the smell is getting worse. The Bush tax cuts have stayed around for four more years at a time where the country could use the money, especially from the wealthy.

To Obama’s supporters, the president has two crucial problems on this issue. Obama can’t seem to make up his mind on how long these tax cuts should last. In his latest proposal, President Obama is asking for one more year. He sounds more like a whiny child wanting to stay up another half-hour. In another year, Obama will ask for another year, assuming he gets elected. No one believes it will be one year and out.

Obama’s other credibility issue goes to his definition of wealthy and the middle class. Candidate Obama pointed out in 2008 that 94% of Americans make under $100,000 a year, well before the economic collapse in fall 2008. His definition of wealthy as less than $250,000 is rather insulting yet fits in well with the Beltway mentality. Couples who live in the DC area point out that, for them, $250,000 as a couple isn’t that much, but they shouldn’t be dictating tax policy for the 99%. They live in an expensive area, but they are still better off than most Americans.

Obama is a pawn in the Democratic Party’s drive to appeal to the middle class, at least to define them as far richer than the middle of our economy actually is. Obama’s definition is bad, but better than the Democratic House version that extends the tax cuts to those making less than $1 million. While those under $100,000 tend to vote Democratic, this is despite what the party stands for, not because of it.

Now, President Obama does want the wealthy to pay more, and by more, we mean the rate they paid under President Clinton, when this country was in a lot better shape.

The Republican House and Senate leadership want the tax cuts to be permanent. Even as that stance is horrific economic policy, they have been remarkably consistent. President Obama is trying to do what he thinks is the right thing yet he hasn’t convinced anyone that this path is good, and he has lost this battle every time he has gone into the ring.

Who is President Obama fighting for? His claim is anyone making under $250,000. This is approximately 98-99% of the country. Yet very few outside of the inner White House circle are on his side.

Obama’s supporters aren’t against a tax cut in itself, just not now, just not these cuts. If the president were smart, he would come up with a wiser tax plan that could be the “Obama tax cuts.” Imagine a President Romney or a potential GOP president fighting to get rid of the “Obama tax cuts.”

Everyone loves freedom, except for Mississippi on abortion

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We celebrated freedom in these United States this week. Freedom in Mississippi is hanging by a legal thread, as the state’s draconian laws that essentially eliminates abortion in the state are temporarily put on hold.

If you needed to get an abortion in Mississippi, you only had one option — in the capital, Jackson — which still meant a significant drive from anywhere else in the state.

The Republicans in Mississippi decided that one abortion provider in its state was one too many, and passed laws making it virtually impossible to perform the medical procedure. Requiring hospital privileges, something that isn’t necessary, was the key point of the Mississippi legislation.

The old stat that gets tossed around is that 85% of all U.S. counties have no abortion services; that statistic hasn’t improved. Roe v. Wade might still be the law of the land, but in many parts of these United States, the Supreme Court decision doesn’t even apply.

Mississippi isn’t surrounded by the most enlightened of states: Louisiana, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama. Factor in laws that require an overnight stay or limit teenagers from crossing state lines and women in that part of the South really have it rough.

You can get an abortion, especially an early-term abortion, in the United States, but getting that abortion is not as simple as wanting one.

This law, and the other similar laws, hurt sexual freedom in Mississippi and other states, but they also hurt economic freedom. If you can’t use your freedom to plan your family, you can end up with kids when you can’t afford them. Given the low benefits people in Mississippi and surrounding states receive, poor is as poor does.

We have learned throughout American history that even if laws are passed in Washington, often they come to the South and die. Black men had the right to vote thanks to the 15th Amendment, though the South got away with not allowing many blacks to be able to vote for the next 100 years.

Thanks to a judge’s ruling, the lone Mississippi abortion clinic can stay open, though little has been done before this point. One is too few, but still better than none.

Americans are good at talking about the idea of freedoms, but in reality, people aren’t nearly as free as they should be, especially compared to the rest of the First World. The European Union allows its citizens to go freely to live and work in another country; Americans, Canadians and Mexicans don’t have that freedom. Single-payer health care allows Canadians, Europeans, and others to pursue their own dreams without having to be tied down to a job for health insurance.

Poor Americans who are conservative want to keep taxes low on the off-chance that they might someday be rich. But they live in the First World country where that is the least likely to happen. And that was true long before the Great Recession of 2008.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1992 that states cannot pass laws posing substantial obstacles or undue burdens on a woman’s right to an abortion. Having one abortion provider in a state larger than Rhode Island would seem to be an undue burden. having none would definitely be an undue burden.

This isn’t to say that the American dream is an abortion provider on every corner. Reasonable access can be in the eyes of the beholder, though the largest city and capital of a U.S. state should have more than one provider, and political intimidation shouldn’t be used to reduce Americans freedom.

The next step comes July 11 when a federal judge hears from both sides on continuing the temporary injunction. If not, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization will be put out of business and more than just symbolically, Mississippi will become the first state in the country where economic and sexual freedom don’t exist.