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Archive for November 2012

Obama, Dems need stronger position for true compromise on fiscal cliff

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Despite potential concerns, a flood of locusts will not come through if the United States manages to fall off the fiscal cliff. Also, first-born sons will not be in danger of death due to the fiscal cliff.

Everything short of locusts and the loss of first-born sons has been promised if the Bush tax cuts expire and spending cuts kick in at the end of the year. Panic in the streets.

Y2K promised us some panic, but comparably, that potential panic is nothing like the potential panic we are forecast to get if we fall off the fiscal cliff.

What we’re hearing from Republicans and some elements of the mainstream is that compromise is what we need to avoid going over the fiscal cliff. Their cries of compromise after almost a decade of digging the deficit deeper ring hollow as the Dems only know compromise.

Let’s acknowledge that keeping the Bush tax cuts for an extra four years is compromise enough. Republicans during the campaign whined about how President Obama was blaming Bush for what was happening for the last four years. The tax cuts were still there and that was Obama’s fault.

The Bush tax cuts were self-imposed compromise, the worst kind, so the idea of giving that up as “compromise” is a sick joke if keeping them hadn’t done enough damage to the economy in the last four years.

The latest GOP strategy is to tie reforming Obamacare to solving the fiscal cliff. Obamacare was a compromise, again somewhat self-imposed. If Dems could vote their true feelings, Obamacare would lose in a landslide.

Obamacare still allows for a healthy 17% profit margin for insurance companies for doing virtually nothing. The hassle of paperwork, which other Western countries do not have, will still exist and raise people’s blood pressure in having to deal with those issues.

The problem in the threat of going off the fiscal cliff is that the GOP wants to use that leverage to get more of what they want, i.e., not compromise.

What have progressives gained from this in the last four years? What have the conservatives really given up?

We still spend plenty on defense. Yes, Obama finally shut down the war on false pretenses (Iraq), but we’ll have 6 of President Obama’s 8 years with Afghanistan.

Bill Clinton had to spend his time cleaning up the Reagan/Bush messes on the deficit, hampering Dem attempts to spend money on programs that they want. Barack Obama has had to clean up the George W. Bush mess, forcing self-imposed and other forms of compromise.

And yet the same Republicans who literally got us into this financial mess are crying to keep us from the fiscal cliff, forcing Dems to give up even more.

Obama’s insistence of keeping the Bush tax cuts for those making less than $250,000 is still ridiculous. Low-income people, regardless of party, are being ignored. Dems would be smart to start focusing on them, since they make up the vast majority of potential voters. To be fair, the GOP would also be smart but the party has further to travel to help low-income people since the GOP is still trying to protect millionaires and billionaires.

So what should President Obama do?

If the Dems had taken back the House, the solution would be simple. Go over the cliff, wait for the new Congress to arrive in January and put together a sharp bill. Then again, the Dems should have done this in 2009.

Since the GOP will be in control of the House in December and January with a larger majority in 2013 …

Taxes

Bush tax cuts: dead for everyone. If you have to make a case for “middle class,” set the bar at $100,000 not $250,000. The GOP will whine about small businesses in a compromise. No tax cuts period is a better political sell.

The GOP has been talking about cutting loopholes. Mitt Romney offered up a deduction ceiling. Take those ideas, give Republicans credit for them, and still raise the tax rates. The Republicans get something: credit for ideas and cooperation and Dems get Clintonesque tax rates.

Keep the 2009 stimulus credits, fix the Alternative Minimum Tax (proof of progress), and slightly modify the payroll tax holiday. Show off the modification as proof of compromise. You could give away the payroll tax holiday as proof the economy is getting better, but be willing to keep it for compromise sake.

Ideally, Obama should use Romney as an example and make sure people in his position pay their fair share. The rich won’t like that, but the people will.

Spending

The taxes won’t put the country over the fiscal cliff, though this is what you hear in the press. The real issue to the economy is the spending.

As much as progressives will cheer about defense cuts, the cuts in programs are devastating. And there is little to no shot at getting only defense cuts.

One ideal compromise is that defense plants would make high-speed rail cars and solar panels and devices to capture wind power to build up the infrastructure instead of planes and bombs. That would be the ultimate compromise, since the GOP loves defense spending. Defend us against crumbling infrastructure.

By cutting loopholes and raising the tax rates, the Dems could hit the $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction mark, which would void the sequester cuts. If anything, the $1.2 trillion number should be the fiscal cliff. Obama wants $1.6 trillion over the next decade, a strong position for compromise.

Going over the fiscal cliff on spending would force both hands to work harder on a deal. The Dems have to fight hard for unemployment insurance. Everything else could be negotiated in January. Things would be bad enough on both sides that the $1.2 trillion mark would sound like a better solution.

Of course, the deficit cutting doesn’t help the need to stimulate the economy. Better economic numbers would raise tax revenue and be the best cure for the deficit. Getting out of Afghanistan early, cutting off farm subsidies to rich people, setting the middle class at $100,000 not $250,000 are better ways to reduce the deficit, but those ideas aren’t even at the kids table, much less the adult table. Both parties should get on board with these easy ideas where the American people would support, regardless of party, and neither party wants to make those moves.

2012 Election Recap: A step up for Dems in the Senate

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Even if Florida doesn’t go for Barack Obama, he’ll have more electoral votes in both terms than George W. Bush and a larger percentage of the popular vote than anyone in 20 years. Yet the GOP and the media treated Obama as if he didn’t have a mandate in 2008 and are hinting the same treatment in 2012.

Obama has truly earned this. Treat him like any other president.

Teabaggers have a much easier time winning a House seat. Small amount of people, especially if the GOP has drawn redistricting to your advantage. The number of governors races the GOP won in 2010 meant more GOP House seats in 2012.

Republicans understand this, Dems are trying to catch up.

As we saw in 2010 and 2012, teabaggers are bad at running for Senate seats. Christine O’Donnell, Sharron Angle, Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock found ways not to get elected to the U.S. Senate.

The GOP could still hang onto the House in 2014, but without a significant change in the dynamic, either the teabaggers stop running for the Senate or society starts embracing the teabaggers, the House is the only area the GOP can find happiness.

The phrase that kept going in my head throughout Election Night was “step up.” Yes, the Dems picked up a few Senate seats, but they made some good trade-offs on seats that didn’t lose.

Chris Murphy over Joe Lieberman: step up. A potted plant over Joe Lieberman: step up. That was just Connecticut, a blue state. Tim Kaine over Jim Webb (Virginia): step up. Heidi Heitkamp over Kent Conrad (North Dakota): step up. Okay, Heitkamp isn’t so much a step up on Conrad, but she’ll have more enthusiasm to want to stay in the Senate.

Two other races involved moderate Republicans switching over to “Dems” in the middle. Olympia Snowe (Maine) and Richard Lugar (Indiana) will trade out for Angus King (I-ME) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN). They may not be pure votes on every topic, but will vote for the Dems on the big issues, such as Supreme Court nominees.

2006 and 2008 brought a bunch of new Democratic senators, and so 2012 and now 2014 will be big years for new Dems to defend their seats. Every Dem on his/her first term got re-elected.

Some of those senators may have been helped by Obama coattails in 2012. The ones running in 2014 won’t have that luxury.

Traditionally, the party in power doesn’t do well in the second term midterm. The economy might make the difference; the GOP will likely still hold the economy hostage.

Despite the screaming of the “fiscal cliff” — and the Canadian media seems even more worried about this than the U.S. media  — the temptation is to end all the Bush tax cuts, something Obama should have done in 2009, and let the automatic cuts kick in. Obama has tried not hard not to look angry, but he needs to look tough. As the late Bob Marley would have put it, “Get up, stand up. Stand up for your right.”

If Obama lets the Bush tax cuts go, then he can negotiate any “middle-class” tax cut.

Written by democracysoup

November 9, 2012 at 5:16 pm

Election Day 2012: Obama, yes. Senate, probably. House, upset?

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If you accept that it will take longer to recover from Hurricane Sandy as opposed to a typical hurricane, then you could accept that the depressive recession of 2008 will take longer to recover from than a typical recession.

The question that has been asked is which party has done more to help that recovery. Every job bill in place was passed while the Dems were in control of the House. Most economists though the initial stimulus was undervalued thanks to tax cuts that didn’t help. One presidential candidate has a plan to reduce the deficit, one has a plan that will raise the deficit.

The race is about who will be president on January 20, 2013 and beyond. But the race is also about Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner, Harry Reid, and Mitch McConnell and how much power they will have in Washington.

Regardless of where you stand, get out and vote. True, some forces (i.e., GOP) have made voting more difficult to accomplish. Nothing scares a politician like voting.

Here is a breakdown of the White House as well as the two houses of Congress: House and Senate.

White House

You can’t blame the pundits and political media for being a little punch-drunk at this point in the campaign. “What if we have an Electoral College tie?” “What if Mitt Romney wins more of the popular vote because Hurricane Sandy brought down numbers in blue states?”

We won’t and it doesn’t matter.

Ever since Romney won the first debate, the tone of the coverage has turned to “Romney just might win.” If you are going uphill, you have to be well over 50% to overcome an incumbent. The best route for Romney is to have financial ties to companies that run voting booths.

Bellwether states — Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio — will decide this election. Right now, those states point in the direction of President Barack Obama. “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” may be what sinks the former Massachusetts governor.

Anybody who runs for president is desperate on some level. John McCain had moments of not being desperate, like when he told the woman that Obama isn’t a Muslim. Romney saw behavior such as that and has gone for the jugular every chance he has had. Romney’s deceiving ads in Ohio over Jeep production was the latest symptom of his desire to do what it takes to be president. The more desperation at the end, the more you know you won’t win (unless you cheat).

House

The GOP enjoys a 25-seat advantage in the House of Representatives. Most of those turnovers in 2010 went to teabaggers, er, Tea Party folk. The best way for the Dems to gain control back is to take back those teabagger seats.

One teabagger the Dems would love to beat that has a chance to lose is Joe Walsh (IL-8). Allegations of failure to pay child support and his over-the-top manner puts his seat in danger against Tammy Duckworth. The former soldier in Iraq who lost three limbs ran for Congress back in 2006 but lost a different seat. If you are looking for a symbolic seat, this is as good as any of them. A Duckworth win could prove interesting for the Dems; can’t see a scenario where Walsh wins and the Dems take back the House.

A seat that would be mostly about bragging rights would be Steve King (IA-5) vs. Christie Vilsack, wife of Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture. King’s views on just about anything (rape, science) infuriates the Dems. Getting rid of him would be a moral victory for Pelosi, et al.

House races are more difficult to assess unless you are on the ground. Since most House races go to the incumbent, any upsets you hear along the way are almost certain to go in the Dems column. Even if the GOP keeps the House, look for the difference in margin. If a Democratic president wins another term in office, there should be some coattails in the House of Representatives.

Senate

The Democratic Party currently has/controls 53 seats (51 Dems, 2 Independents) while the Republicans have 47 seats. Tie goes to the vice president.

The Dems are almost certain to lose Nebraska and North Dakota but would gain a nominal win in Maine. Angus King is expected to go along with the Dems. That would put the Dems at 52.

The Dems have 5 seats that could see an upset vs. 3 for the GOP. So on paper, the Republicans are in good shape for a takeover.

Elizabeth Warren has to win in Massachusetts for the Dems to have a really good night. As offensive as Richard Mourdock was on “God intented to happen,” that statement alone wouldn’t guarantee a win for Joe Donnelly. If you hear the name Joe Donnelly multiple times, the Dems will have a good night.

Shelley Berkley is another name where hearing it is a good sign for the Dems. Dean Heller was appointed to fill out the term of John Ensign, who had a disgraceful streak thanks to his mistress/employee and financial scandals.

If Richard Carmona gets mentioned more than once, Harry Reid will still be Senate Majority Leader.

Scott Brown’s return to Ted Kennedy’s Senate seat for 6 more years would be an early sign for a successful GOP evening. Linda McMahon, George Allen, and Tommy Thompson would also bring joy to the GOP — all 3 of these seats are Dems or Dem-leaning. Tammy Baldwin would be the first openly gay U.S. senator if elected in Wisconsin.

The Badger state would be a sign of the times. If Thompson wins the seat, both U.S. Senate seats would have gone from Dem to GOP in just 2 years.

If you are looking for a reason to stay up all night, Hawaii could be the decider as the GOP thinks it has a shot with Linda Lingle going for Daniel Akaka’s retiring seat.

D stands for Democratic and defense: 15 Dems and an independent will probably defend their seats vs. 5 for the Republicans. Throw in the 5-3 advantage for tough seats to defend, and you can see why the Democratic Party was seriously sweating the 2012 race for control of the Senate.

Races that will likely go from Democratic to Republican

Nebraska — Ben Nelson (D)/Bob Kerrey (D) vs. Deb Fischer (R)
North Dakota — Kent Conrad (D)/Heidi Heitkamp (D) vs. Rick Berg (R)

Races that will likely go from Republican to Democratic

Maine — Olympia Snowe (R)/Charles E. Summers, Jr. (R) Cynthia Dill (D) Angus King (I)*
Massachusetts — Scott Brown (R)/Elizabeth Warren (D)
* King is likely winner and would probably side with Dems

Races the GOP would love to steal

Connecticut — Joe Lieberman (I)/Chris Murphy (D) vs. Linda McMahon (R)
Hawaii — Daniel Akaka (D)/Mazie Hirono (D) vs. Linda Lingle (R)
Ohio — Sherrod Brown (D)/Josh Mandel (R)
Virginia — Jim Webb (D)/Tim Kaine (D) vs. George Allen (R)
Wisconsin — Herb Kohl (D)/Tammy Baldwin (D) vs. Tommy Thompson (R)

Races the Dems would love to steal

Arizona — Jon Kyl (R)/Jeff Flake (R) vs. Richard Carmona (D)
Indiana — Richard Lugar (R)/Richard Mourdock (R) vs. Joe Donnelly (D)
Nevada — Dean Heller (R)/Shelley Berkley (D)

Races that you might hear a flutter of thought, but the incumbents are likely winners:

Florida — Bill Nelson (D)
Michigan — Debbie Stabenow (D)
Missouri — Claire McCaskill (D)
Montana — Jon Tester (D)
Pennsylvania — Bob Casey, Jr. (D)
Washington — Maria Cantwell (D)

Races that you will likely hear very little about on Election Night

California — Dianne Feinstein (D)
Delaware — Tom Carper (D)
Maryland — Ben Cardin (D)
Minnesota — Amy Klobuchar (D)
Mississippi — Roger Wicker (R)
New Jersey — Bob Menendez (D)
New Mexico — Martin Heinrich (D) replacing Jeff Bingaman (D)
New York — Kirsten Gillibrand (D)
Rhode Island — Sheldon Whitehouse (D)
Tennessee — Bob Corker (R)
Texas — Ted Cruz (R) replacing Kay Bailey Hutchison (R)
Utah — Orrin Hatch (R)
Vermont — Bernie Sanders (I)
West Virginia — Joe Manchin (D)
Wyoming — John Barrasso (R)

Mitt Romney won’t release medical records or tax returns; American voters deserve full disclosure

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If Mitt Romney is elected, he would be the fourth oldest person (Ronald Reagan, William Henry Harrison, James Buchanan) to be inaugurated. The issue of a 68-year-old becoming president was important in 2008 in part because of problems with cancer … and Sarah Palin.

Well, Romney is 65, and many find Paul Ryan more dangerous than Palin. Yes, Romney doesn’t drink, not even caffeine. In previous years, these concerns would be dealt with by releasing medical records. John McCain at 68 released his records somewhat and allowed only limited access. This was better than the standard for Palin, who got away with not releasing her medical records.

Medical records are magically not an issue in the 2012 race. No one seems to know why.

Heck, Romney didn’t want to release his tax returns beyond 2011 and 2012. His 2012 records had him underplaying his charitable contributions so his tax rate seemed somewhat more “normal” but still way under what average Americans pay. The fact that Romney hasn’t released any more (unlike other presidential nominees) does imply that he is hiding something.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tried to force Romney’s bluff. Reid could have looked extremely foolish, except for the fact that Romney never released those returns. The problem is that the MSM and most of the American public forgot that Romney never did release those records. The last media person I saw mention Romney’s tax returns was David Letterman, a late-night talk show host.

We had Donald Trump offer the sitting president of the United States, Barack Obama, to release his college records in exchange for a $5 million charitable contribution. We can’t get tax returns from the GOP nominee and Trump thinks something in college records, which no presidential candidate has had to release, is that valuable.

Trump said he’d be satisfied if Obama did this. No one believes this, not even Trump. While I couldn’t offer $5 million, we certainly could scrape up $10,000 — a typical Romney bet — to get Romney to release his tax returns.

George Romney released a dozen years of tax returns and he wasn’t even the party’s nominee. Like father, not like son.

The voters relied on a local journalist to uncover the DUI conviction of George W. Bush in 2000. Since the revelation came so late, the GOP felt like it was a last-minute trick. If the MSM had done their job, they would have found the DUI long before then.

You might think that DUI convictions, tax returns, medical files, and other personal information isn’t necessary to pick a presidential candidate. You might believe the information is important, but only if your opponent reveals that.

Unfortunately, there is no standard for what gets released and certainly no agreement on a penalty for not revealing information. The previous gentleman’s agreement philosophy has certainly been thrown out by the Republicans.

If Romney gets elected and we find out that he only paid 9% or 2% or really didn’t pay taxes in some or all of those years, we have ourselves to blame. If Paul Ryan has to take the oath of office because Romney had some medical condition and dies, well, we didn’t try hard enough to track this information down.

Past acts can’t guarantee what will happen in the future. But wanting to be president and vice president should lower your desire for privacy. In 2008, we had the candidate who was born in the United States release his long-form birth certificate. The guy who wasn’t born in the U.S. — he got a free pass.

If you want to be leader of the free world, you should let us know a few basic facts. The last thing we should want is a president or vice president who is more concerned about hiding something from the American people.