Democracy Soup

Making sense out of the world of politics

Archive for February 2013

Barack Obama calls for infrastructure fixes 4 years too late

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In 2009, Barack Obama inherited a situation with crumbling infrastructure and a lot of people out of work. In a 2+2=4 world, the logical step would be to take the people out of work and have them build up infrastructure. Even if everyone couldn’t do those skills, there were enough people who could, and if they had jobs, other jobs and businesses wouldn’t have fallen in 2009 and 2010.

In 2009, if CBS or any other broadcast network came out with a show idea about giving someone a job, that could have turned into the next “American Idol” or “The Voice” or “So you think your smart 5th grader has talent.”

In 2013, President Barack Obama, having been elected to a second term, has proposed a “Fix it First” to help rebuild infrastructure. Obama said 70,000 bridges were in need of repair, among countless problems. Jon Stewart thought the bridges were a rather immediate concern.

In 2013, CBS is running a show called “The Job” where they make people go through humiliation for a “dream job” such as being an editorial assistant at Cosmopolitan magazine. As the promo notes — “the employer has all the power” — a rather depressing and not altogether accurate statement.

This feels more about humiliation than help; Stephen Colbert put it best when he labeled the program despertainment.

“And with one hire per show, ‘The Job’ should run for 12.3 million episodes.”

In both cases, the feeling is “too little, way too late.” The difference is that Obama is being sincere and CBS, well, doesn’t look like they really want to help.

Our infrastructure still needs fixing as does our job market. So we can certainly use the help. One bridge and one job at a time is too little, but better than we have had lately.

Getting infrastructure improved and a jobs program requires help from the GOP, and that party isn’t interested. Nor are Republicans game for raising the minimum wage.

Republicans preach about the value of work, yet they aren’t willing to pay for it. The proposed raise to $9/hour wouldn’t be immediate. The minimum wage would go up incrementally over three years to $9. Even then, the minimum wage will be undervalued, worse if someone is a tipped employee.

Liberals joke that the GOP wants the world of “Leave It to Beaver” brought to life. If the minimum wage reflected buying power in 1957, the wage would be well beyond $9 right now.

The United States needs rebuilding, but the GOP doesn’t want to pay for it. Poor people need a raise, but the GOP doesn’t want to pay for it. The GOP wants people to get jobs, but won’t submit any plan to get those jobs.

The good news for the Republicans is that Barack Obama can’t run for president in 2016. So they might as well give Obama the chance to succeed or fail based on his requests. Don’t worry, Obama won’t get as much horrible stuff as you think he will, or anyone else for that matter.

We need help, but the GOP doesn’t want us to get that help. The GOP House controls the House. So as the saying goes, “Lead or get out of the way.”


Senate needs Mo Cowan, mo’ African Americans

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Someday, you can tell your grandchildren that you were alive when the Senate first had two African-Americans at the same time. Hopefully, your grandchildren will find that strange, since the Senate would be full of African-Americans.

U.S. senators of Hispanic descent haven’t had much trouble getting elected. Women also have an easy time getting in, though not nearly at the level that they exist in the real world. But having African-Americans in the Senate is still a gigantic hurdle.

When conservatives point out that black people have made it because Barack Obama was elected president, now twice, the United States has only had three elected African-American senators.

Mo Cowan is the newest senator, being appointed by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (one of two total elected black state governors) to replace John Kerry, the new Secretary of State.

Cowan joins Tim Scott, appointed by South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley to replace Jim DeMint. Cowan will have a short stay in the Senate with the special election to fill the remainder of Kerry’s seat on June 25. Scott gets to stay at least until 2014, though Scott is likely to run again to keep the seat.

The only other African American to represent the Commonwealth of Massachusetts was one of the three elected senators. Edward Brooke held the seat as a Republican from 1967-1979. Our current president, Barack Obama, is one of the three to be elected. Carol Moseley Braun is the other elected senator, representing Illinois from 1993-1999.

Scott and Cowan join Roland Burris (D-IL) as appointed senators since Reconstruction.

The common political adage is that African Americans can win local races but not statewide races. After all, the Congressional Black Caucus proves that African-Americans can get elected to the House. Interestingly, Scott is the only one on the list who has served in the House of Representatives. Often, senators get elected out of the House.

3 elected senators, 2 elected governors — this isn’t progress. Appointing senators gives the power of incumbency, which can lead to re-election. Burris had no chance of winning re-election and Cowan is trapped in a scenario where running for the election isn’t viable.

Scott has a chance to be elected to his seat; if that happens and no other African Americans run and win in 2014, then he will be the fourth elected senator and the second Republican.

Obama became president by serving less than a term in the U.S. Senate, an unusual path regardless of race. Governors and senators run for president, yet very few of them are African American. At this pace, we’ll look back fondly on the just past Inauguration. We just saw the re-election of America’s first black president. It will be awhile before we see that again. maybe our grandchildren will tell a different story.