Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Archive for January 2013

Massachusetts Dems should learn from GOP on Senate succession policy

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When Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-HI) died, the terms of succession fell to the governor who had to chose between three candidates supplies by the party of the senator.

When Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) died, the terms of succession fell to the governor who had to chose between three candidates supplies by the party of the senator.

In Hawaii and Wyoming, both governors happened to be from the same party as the senator in question. Those two states are likely to have that scenario of Democratic in Hawaii and Republican in Wyoming. The law is a good safeguard in case the circumstances change.

When the Massachusetts legislature changed the rule for senator succession, the Dems were trying to avoid having Mitt Romney pick a Republican to replace John Kerry. The Dems didn’t go the route of Hawaii, Wyoming, Arizona, and a number of other states. After all, when John McCain ran for president in 2008, a similar law was in place.

The Massachusetts Dems got victimized when Scott Brown won a special election against Martha Coakley for Ted Kennedy’s seat. And they could suffer the same kind of bite, ironically for John Kerry’s Senate seat.

The play by McCain, Lindsay Graham, Kelly Ayotte, and Joe Lieberman (behind the curtain) against Susan Rice was made to open up Kerry’s Senate seat. And it worked, at least in opening up the seat.

In the 2004 scenario, Gov. Romney would have had to pick a Democratic replacement. In 2009, Gov. Deval Patrick, a fellow Democratic politician, would have had to pick a Democratic replacement.

The only way the law could have backfired on the Dems is if a Republican in the seat died or left the Senate, and the Dems couldn’t get back the seat right away.

Somehow, this feels a bit more democratic (small d). The voters voted in someone whose values reflect on the majority of those who voted for the senator. Giving the governor the all-knowing decision power has, on occasion, been abused. You might be thinking Rod Blagojevich (Illinois), and this is true. Would also offer up Frank Murkowski (Alaska), who upon going from the Senate to the governor’s chair, replaced himself with his daughter, Lisa. (Sarah Palin beat Frank Murkowski in the governor primary in the next election, so you can blame Frank Murkowski.)

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Barack Obama has 4 more years, but we need to help to improve U.S. food supply

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Just before Noon Eastern, Barack Obama will have about 4 more years to do what he can for the U.S. food supply.

Obama has a lot of his mind, but no president has tried to do more for the problems with the food supply than Barack Obama. And his wife has done more than he has on the issue.

For a look at what may come in the second term of the Obama Administration, check out this column from our sister blog, BalanceofFood.com.

Way too soon to critique diversity in Obama second-term Cabinet

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President Barack Obama finally got a strong bipartisan consensus on a move that he has made. The situation wasn’t easy, and maybe some people in each party can live with the decision that Obama has made, but the extremes in both parties are not happy with Obama’s decision.

That’s right, Obama has bipartisan consensus … against Chuck Hagel to be the next Secretary of Defense.

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, is disliked by the right because he wasn’t conservative enough. He’s from Nebraska; how “liberal” could he be?

The choice of Hagel is disliked on the left for his remarks about gays. Barney Frank, who want to be John Kerry’s interim replacement, initially went against Hagel but changed his mind. Oh, and this annoying trait of Democratic centrist presidents choosing Republicans to run defense.

For the centrist Obama, Hagel is the choice that makes the most sense to him, but is one of those decisions that Obama makes that alienates his base but doesn’t give him any credit from the other side.

Obama took the token symbolism of picking a squishy centrist person from the other party for the cabinet and cranked it up. Obama kept Bush’s defense secretary, Robert Gates, added Ray LaHood for transportation, something Dems actually care about, and wanted (foolishly) to pick Judd Gregg for Commerce. How many points did Obama score with the GOP and the MSM? Zero.

Leon Panetta wasn’t a great defense secretary, but Panetta was the first Democratic defense secretary since 1997. Still waiting for the first Republican president to put a Democratic person in charge of defense.

Yes, Bill Clinton and Obama showed they could work with people on the other side of the glass. The moves haven’t been complimented by actions from the other side. Yes, critics could cite Norman Mineta, but if you don’t remember who Mineta is or what he did, then it wasn’t that memorable, was it?

The pick of Hagel, along with a few preliminary Cabinet selections, has led the MSM to create a false scandal and some outlets to invoke the “binders of women” on Obama. WTF?

The basis of this “scandal” is that four white men are the nominees for State, Defense, CIA, and Treasury. However, the current people in those positions and three white men and Hillary Clinton. So where’s the scandal?

Susan Rice could have been the State nominee but her name was pulled before a nomination thanks to bullying by McCain-Graham-Ayotte (MGA?). Michèle Flournoy is a very good contender for Defense, and the immediate thought if the Hagel nomination doesn’t go through the Senate. No woman has ever served as the head of Defense.

Lisa Jackson is leaving EPA and Hilda Solis just resigned as the head of Labor. Solis was the first Latina female in a Cabinet post. But the Obama Administration hasn’t announced replacements.

In terms of representation and competence within that, Obama’s numbers are off the charts. This isn’t to say Obama handled the Susan Rice situation well. But Rice is still the UN Ambassador, a rather important position.

If the end result is a significant loss of diversity, then feel free to criticize the president. One position change doesn’t amount to a scandal.

President Obama takes the ‘Bush tax cuts’ and makes them his own

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The Bush tax cuts are dead. Long live the Obama tax cuts?

Even if the Obama tax cuts are retroactive, the millisecond(s) in between mean that the deficit-running, economy-collapsing Bush tax cuts are finally done and gone. And they are replaced by the deficit-running, economy-collapsing Obama tax cuts.

When Sen. Barack Obama ran for president in 2008, he ran against the Bush tax cuts. Sen. Obama had a convenient record in that he wasn’t in the Senate when the tax cuts came down. Obama ran against the tax cuts, even before the economic collapse in September.

Obama was elected with a Democratic-controlled House and Senate, though the Senate was bogged down by the insistence that bills needed 60 votes. Yet, the Bush tax cuts remained. The Obama team extended the tax cuts when they were set to expire.

In running for re-election in 2012, Obama set a threshold of keeping said tax cuts for the “middle class,” putting that at $200,000 (single filers) and $250,000 (joint filers). Even if you believed in extending some of the tax cuts, those figures were significantly higher than were necessary to protect the middle class.

In December 2012, after winning a convincing electoral victory, President Obama negotiated with himself to set a more ridiculous level of $400,000 (single filers) and $450,000 (joint filers).

So as we go into the second term of Barack Obama as president, the tax cuts will live on at least two more years if not more for 99% of the country.

And how are we getting that prosperity back?

Obama’s opponents aren’t just trying to make him look bad. They don’t want job growth; they want the legacy of Barack Obama to be ineffectual economic leader. They want to compare him to Jimmy Carter. And Obama is helping them every chance he gets.

The middle class that Obama and the Dems were trying to protect got hit with a “tax hike” in that the payroll tax cut expired. While that should disappear at some point, the cruel irony is that once you reach about $109,000, you don’t pay any more into Social Security and Medicare.

Obama should have set the threshold of the tax cuts with the payroll tax cut. Either raise the level where people contribute to Social Security and Medicare or lower the level for the new Obama tax cuts.

Obama “protecting the middle class” at $200,000 was far-fetched given that in the words of Barack Obama in May 2008, 94% of Americans make under $100,000 a year. This was before the economic crash. $400,000 is even more incredible.

Obama had the momentum on his side, and he gave away part of the store. He could have waited for a better Congress with fewer teabaggers and more Dem senators — and had a much better deal. If compromise was that important, then start low. Obama never said, “Hey let’s get rid of the Bush tax cuts entirely.”

What is it about Democratic presidents and their insatiable desire to compromise with Republicans? Those on the left grew frustrated in watching Bill Clinton would take Republican ideas and use them as his own. Obama has taken a page or two from Clinton.

When Dems wanted single-payer, Obama brought out Obamacare. When Dems wanted no Bush tax cuts, Obama kept them and has now made them his own.

The best way to help the debt is to raise tax revenues from the people who did well in the last four years and the eight years before that. The threshold of $400,000 and $450,000 fails that mission. Even if somehow the Dems get back the House in 2014 and keep the Senate, President Obama isn’t eager to get these rates back to the Clinton era, the talking point Obama pounded into our heads during the campaign.

If those rates were so great, and they were, Obama wanting an exception for approximately 96% of the country never made any sense.

President Obama has proven to be a strong leader in many cases and has shown puzzling leadership on economic issues. He almost lost the election in 2012 because of the economy. Obama’s response was to blame Bush, which was true to a point. But President Obama took one of Bush’s signature moves and made it permanent. That is failed leadership and sells short his base and those who are suffering as a result of the failed economic policies.