28 Feb

NYTimes.com – Majority in Poll Back Employees In Public Unions

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Governors in both parties have been making the case that public workers are either overpaid or have overly generous health and pension benefits. But 61 percent of those polled — including just over half of Republicans — said they thought the salaries and benefits of most public employees were either “about right” or “too low” for the work they do.

via NYTimes.com – Majority in Poll Back Employees In Public Unions. Looks like the Governors are overly extending themselves politically.

10 Jan

NYTimes.com – Climate of Hate

I’ve had a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach ever since the final stages of the 2008 campaign. I remembered the upsurge in political hatred after Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 — an upsurge that culminated in the Oklahoma City bombing. And you could see, just by watching the crowds at McCain-Palin rallies, that it was ready to happen again. The Department of Homeland Security reached the same conclusion: in April 2009 an internal report warned that right-wing extremism was on the rise, with a growing potential for violence.

Conservatives denounced that report. But there has, in fact, been a rising tide of threats and vandalism aimed at elected officials, including both Judge John Roll, who was killed Saturday, and Representative Gabrielle Giffords. One of these days, someone was bound to take it to the next level. And now someone has.

It’s true that the shooter in Arizona appears to have been mentally troubled. But that doesn’t mean that his act can or should be treated as an isolated event, having nothing to do with the national climate.

Where’s that toxic rhetoric coming from? Let’s not make a false pretense of balance: it’s coming, overwhelmingly, from the right. It’s hard to imagine a Democratic member of Congress urging constituents to be “armed and dangerous” without being ostracized; but Representative Michele Bachmann, who did just that, is a rising star in the G.O.P.

And there’s a huge contrast in the media. Listen to Rachel Maddow or Keith Olbermann, and you’ll hear a lot of caustic remarks and mockery aimed at Republicans. But you won’t hear jokes about shooting government officials or beheading a journalist at The Washington Post. Listen to Glenn Beck or Bill O’Reilly, and you will.

via NYTimes.com – Climate of Hate. This is perhaps the larger point, there is a problem when violent rhetoric is used as a substitute for reasoned and rational debate.

08 Jan

NPR – Congresswoman, 6 Others, Killed By Gunman

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and six others died after a gunman opened fire at a public event on Saturday, the Pima County, Ariz., sheriff’s office confirms. The 40-year-old Democrat was outside a Tucson grocery store when a gunman ran up and began firing indiscriminately. The suspect was taken into police custody.

The 40-year-old Democrat, who was re-elected to her third term in November, was hosting a "Congress on Your Corner" event at a Safeway in northwest Tucson when a gunman ran up and started shooting, according to Peter Michaels, news director of Arizona Public Media.

via NPR – Congresswoman, 6 Others, Killed By Gunman. I may be over-reacting but in this case it looks like the suspect was targeting the Congresswoman for a political assassination. If true, this is not a healthy attitude for anyone. Political disagreements should never be resolved through violence.

This was also one of the House Democrats that Sarah Palin through SarahPac “targeted” with croshairs over their district: http://twitpic.com/3o7cti. Also Sarah Palin is reportedly deleting posts that carried this rhetoric, which is a little silly the internet always remembers and deleting her copies doesn’t delete everyone else who reported on it, etc.

Update: Sharron Angle former Republican candidate who went up against Senator Harry Reid, who claimed that if things don’t work out at the “ballot box” Americans should turn to a “Second Ammedment remedy”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CU9GXil9Vm8

Update 2: Rep. Giffords was not killed today, at least as of writing, she was however severely wounded and is in critical condition.

03 Jan

The New Yorker – Sorting out the Senate

In the nineteenth century, filibusters were rarer than visible comets. For most of the twentieth, they were still rare—about as frequent as solar eclipses—and reserved for special occasions, such as killing civil-rights bills. Now they and their bastard offspring, the secret “holds” that allow a single senator to pigeonhole a bill or a nomination, are as common as sunsets—and as destructive as tsunamis. It is taken for granted that without the support of sixty of the hundred senators, the number needed to invoke “cloture,” nothing emerges from the Senate alive. The minority can’t quite rule, exactly, but it can, and does, use the rules to ruin. Even when something does get through, the marginal cost of that fifty-ninth or sixtieth vote is severe. In the absence of the filibuster, the health-care law would offer a public alternative to private insurance, the financial reform would be strong enough to close off the likelihood of another meltdown, and the very rich (and their heirs) would pay something closer to their fair share of taxes. Nearly two hundred qualified nominees for executive and judicial offices would be on the job instead of in limbo. And a climate-and-energy bill, a bill to require corporations to be open about their political spending, the DREAM Act, and dozens of other worthy measures—all of which passed the House and had majority support in the Senate—would now be the law of the land.

via The New Yorker – Sorting out the Senate. In Congress it isn’t majority rule, it’s super-majority rule.

02 Jan

NYTimes.com – Deep Hole Economics

Seriously, what we’re looking at over the next few years, even with pretty good growth, are unemployment rates that not long ago would have been considered catastrophic — because they are. Behind those dry statistics lies a vast landscape of suffering and broken dreams. And the arithmetic says that the suffering will continue as far as the eye can see.

So what can be done to accelerate this all-too-slow process of healing? A rational political system would long since have created a 21st-century version of the Works Progress Administration — we’d be putting the unemployed to work doing what needs to be done, repairing and improving our fraying infrastructure. In the political system we have, however, Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte, delivering the Republican weekly address on New Year’s Day, declared that “Job one is to stop wasteful Washington spending.”

Realistically, the best we can hope for from fiscal policy is that Washington doesn’t actively undermine the recovery. Beware, in particular, the Ides of March: by then, the federal government will probably have hit its debt limit and the G.O.P. will try to force President Obama into economically harmful spending cuts.

via NYTimes.com – Deep Hole Economics. Pretty simple, jobs, jobs and more jobs should be the primary priority of any government in this situation.

07 Dec

NYTimes.com – Still Digging

Like our mythical family, we need a plan, not just more sugar treats. Surely the cynical quote of the week — courtesy of The Daily Beast — goes to Dan Bartlett, the former George W. Bush administration spokesman who was speaking about the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans that Bush “temporarily” put in place a decade ago: “We knew that, politically, once you get it into law, it becomes almost impossible to remove it. That’s not a bad legacy. The fact that we were able to lay the trap does feel pretty good, to tell you the truth.”

Bartlett offered no thoughts as to how these budget-busting tax cuts will address our country’s deficiencies today — just a high-five that in the politics of sports, the G.O.P. just scored a goal on Obama.

via NYTimes.com – Still Digging. Politics and politics rather than real policies that improve the state and standing of the United States. Tax breaks that cost the US $4 Trillion in the next decade and over the next 75 years cost 3 times as much as the Social Security projected shortfall.

15 Nov

NYTimes.com – I Believe I Can Fly

Where do I start? We know that these were not the Republican goals because they had eight years under George W. Bush to pursue them and did just the opposite. And even if we assume that this time they really mean it, they’ve never explained what programs they would cut and how doing that now won’t make our recession worse. But even if they did, these are the wrong priorities. Our priorities now are to mitigate the recession that was set in motion under Bush and to put the country on a path to sustainable economic growth. That will require vastly improving the education and skills of our work force and enabling them with 21st-century infrastructure so they will be smarter and more productive. We know that tax cuts alone won’t do that; we just had that test, too, under Bush. It requires a complex strategy for American renewal — raising some taxes, like on energy, while lowering others, like on workers and corporations; and investing in new infrastructure, schools and research, while cutting other services.

via NYTimes.com – I Believe I Can Fly. Remember the Republican agenda old failed ideas and non-ideas.

29 Aug

Newsweek – Estimates Say Fewer Jobs, Larger Deficits if Republicans Were in Charge

The bottom line, then, is that recent GOP proposals would produce fewer jobs and far larger deficits than the plans Obama has already passed or currently wants to pass. This isn’t to say that the Republicans couldn’t create jobs or cut the deficit if restored to power—just that right now, they’ve chosen to support policies that would prove less effective in both respects than the Democratic programs they so vehemently criticize.

via Newsweek – Estimates Say Fewer Jobs, Larger Deficits if Republicans Were in Charge. Oops?

28 Mar

The Rage Is Not About Health Care – NYTimes.com

But the bill does not erect a huge New Deal-Great Society-style government program. In lieu of a public option, it delivers 32 million newly insured Americans to private insurers. As no less a conservative authority than The Wall Street Journal editorial page observed last week, the bill’s prototype is the health care legislation Mitt Romney signed into law in Massachusetts. It contains what used to be considered Republican ideas.

But the explanation is plain: the health care bill is not the main source of this anger and never has been. It’s merely a handy excuse. The real source of the over-the-top rage of 2010 is the same kind of national existential reordering that roiled America in 1964.

via Op-Ed Columnist – The Rage Is Not About Health Care – NYTimes.com. Frank Rich on the recent health care bill passage and the similarity between that and other bills that changed society.

04 Mar

Senator Bunning’s Universe – NYTimes.com

Take the question of helping the unemployed in the middle of a deep slump. What Democrats believe is what textbook economics says: that when the economy is deeply depressed, extending unemployment benefits not only helps those in need, it also reduces unemployment. That’s because the economy’s problem right now is lack of sufficient demand, and cash-strapped unemployed workers are likely to spend their benefits. In fact, the Congressional Budget Office says that aid to the unemployed is one of the most effective forms of economic stimulus, as measured by jobs created per dollar of outlay.

Now, the House has already passed a bill that, by exempting the assets of couples up to $7 million, would leave 99.75 percent of estates tax-free. But that doesn’t seem to be enough for Mr. Kyl; he’s willing to hold up desperately needed aid to the unemployed on behalf of the remaining 0.25 percent. That’s a very clear statement of priorities.

Someday, somehow, we as a nation will once again find ourselves living on the same planet. But for now, we aren’t. And that’s just the way it is.

via Op-Ed Columnist – Senator Bunning’s Universe – NYTimes.com. Krugman taking it old school at the state of American politics.