Sunday, September 21, 2014

Go Home

I came across this article by Fred Barnes in The Weekly Standard because I happened to be trolling around right wing sites and thought he had a provocative, interesting idea. I also found a site that castigated Progressives for Palin Derangement Syndrome. You know, that knee-jerk negative reaction the left has whenever Palins's name comes up. The author seemed to suggest that those on the left were offended by Palin's obvious feminism and suggested that the left loved women's rights and opinions, but not Palin's. Especially when she was shown shooting a gun. What the author missed is that Sarah Palin just sounds uninformed whenever she speaks. I have plenty of respect for her as a woman, as a mother, as someone who wanted to serve the people of Alaska. I just happen to disagree with every single word she utters. Nothing more, nothing less.

But I digress.

Fred Barnes wants the GOP to Go Big or Go Home, hence the title of my response. He says that if only the Republicans would advocate abolishing the IRS and a stronger, more muscular foreign policy, then they would win the hearts and minds of the American people. He does say that these positions might not win the GOP the Senate this fall, but would provide a template for action that the party could run on in 2016.

The problem is that most Americans do not want to get rid of the IRS, even though they hate its very guts. Deep down, they understand that if the United States is going to make good on its mission to protect the homeland and the common good, then it will need funds and a means by which to collect them. That's what the IRS does. What Mr. Barnes should really be advocating is that all the companies that evade U.S. corporate taxes should actually pay up. That might lessen the burden on the overburdened middle class and it might provide more funds for, you know, schools, roads, bridges, job programs and Medicare.

Barnes is not at all specific when he talks about why the country needs a more muscular foreign policy, or even what that looks like. I have a suspicion that it looks like a foreign policy that throws bombs and bullets on people who are either innocent or who already hate us to the point that more bombs and bullets will help their recruiting efforts. But he doesn't say, so this is all conjecture.

The article is instructive because these positions are precisely why the GOP has only won one big election since 2008, when they took over the House in 2010. Every other election has gone to the Democrats despite the baying from the right that Obama is abusing his power and is wrong on every issue. Clearly, America does not agree with that.

And that's why the Republicans will not win a majority in the Senate this fall, nor will they win the presidency in 2016.

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

ALICE In Christie-Land

Governor coy-about-running-for-president-when-it's-clear-that-both-he-and-Hillary Clinton-are-definitely-in-the-race now has another problem.

Its name is ALICE. This is not a shouting person, as the name and all-CAPS might suggest, but an acronym for New Jersey's still-struggling middle class during the governor's tenure.

It stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, and along with the other economic fundamentals that are presently working against the governor, this measure be difficult for him to overcome. The data comes from a study conducted by the United Way of Northern New Jersey and the results are depressing. From the article:
Data compiled by the group show that 38 percent of New Jersey households are struggling to meet basic needs. These households are just scraping by, one lost job or medical emergency away from potential fiscal ruin.

While 11 percent of state residents fall below the Federal Poverty Line, which stands at an annual income of $22,811 for a family of four, the report found that when adjusted for cost of living the same family needs nearly triple that -- $61,200 – just to meet a basic survival budget.

In one of the wealthiest states in the country, 1.2 million households fall below this threshold. And while the state’s economy has shown signs of recovery in the wake of the Great Recession, the number of households struggling by the United Way measure increased by about 24 percent from 2007 to 2012, the most recent data available. 
Yes, I understand that this is not just a New Jersey problem, but it is, well...a New Jersey problem. And it has persisted under the Christie administration that only a few months ago was talking about a Jersey Comeback and proposing a tax cut that would have further devastated the economy and the middle and working classes. Christie has also vetoed a law that would have earned revenue from those wealthy residents who are doing very well because of the stock market rally and continues to threaten vetoes whenever such a law reaches his desk.

Take a moment and consider the components of the acronym. These are struggling New Jerseyans who have limited assets because they don't have a lot of paper or real investments, their incomes are constrained because wages have not kept up with either inflation or the value of the jobs they do, yet these residents are employed. They work a full day so they don't count under other government statistics, but they struggle mightily to make their bills and expand their, and their family's, horizons.

It's one thing if  the unemployed struggle. We expect that to happen and there are some programs that can help. But when people are working and struggling, then that's an added tragedy made worse by the governor's refusal to search for solutions that haven't been written by ALEC or vetted by the conservatives whose support he will desperately need in 2016. Public workers are now seeing an erosion of their take-home pay as they are required to contribute more for their pensions and benefits, and the governor wants them to pay more. Property taxes, long the main issue in statewide races, are still going up and will rise more as housing prices recover.

It all adds up to a mathematics that reduces New Jersey's middle class to treadmill animals running just to stay in place. The rest of the country needs to beware.

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest 


Sunday, September 7, 2014

From Summer to Serious

I've always found it interesting when the calendar changes to the day after Labor Day and the country gets serious. The rest of the world doesn't know from this holiday and I'm sure there's a great deal of literature on how the calendar affects world affairs. Thus, here we are.

The world continues to be on fire. ISIS, Syria, Israel, Palestine, West Africa, and English towns that breed terrorists are mainstays of the 24-hour news cycle. The president is excoriated for suggesting that we are at a loss over what to do about increasing threats overseas. Texas is on alert for possible infiltration across the Mexican border. But don't worry about that too much because Chris Christie was just in Mexico and I'm sure he'll scare off the militants. Of course, he hasn't a clue about foreign policy, but at least he didn't pull a Romney on his first foreign trip.

On the domestic political front, the big issue is that Congress is going to meet for a few days, adjourn, and go home to run for those all-important safe seats that 96% of the members occupy. Excepting, of course, those few Senate seats that are up for grabs. It's interesting to note that except for 2010, a big exception, I know, the Republican moon-bayers have been unable to defeat Obama and the Democrats and scare the country into giving the conservatives the control they will never, ever have. Yes, the House has been able to wreak havoc on the country and, by the by, their own party, but they have not been successful at implementing their agenda. They've only stymied the Democrats but for the 2009-2011 Congressional session.

Oh, and that ACA law thing? It's working fairly well. You know, millions of people now have health insurance, doctors are able to give elderly people more care, poor people can get Medicaid, except in states that don't take free money but say they are fiscally responsible. But no worries on that because those states that deny the money are actually paying so that the states that did take free Medicaid money can cover their populations. I live in one of those states. My governor wants to be president. Scared yet?

But if the Senate goes to the GOP, then both houses of Congress will vote to repeal the ACA, right? Well, possibly, but right now the GOP isn't taking the Senate. And chances are good that they won't. You heard it here third.

Did we even have a summer?

For more, go to www.facebook.com/WhereDemocracyLives or Twitter @rigrundfest