Sunday, January 18, 2015

Advantage Obama

It's been apparent for a long time, almost the whole of Barack Obama's presidency, that the national government has wasted a great deal of time and energy on obstruction, fights over small, petty issues, and grandstanding by both parties on wedge issues where each blamed the other for declaring war on some segment of the population.

There are two years left in Obama's term. Can we please get something done?

The Republicans have shown their hand rather early by passing legislation that would force the administration to fund and build the XL pipeline, but the battle over the pipeline is probably not as important as either side says. In fact, there are other pipelines that already have been built, or are in the process of being built, that would do more damage or good than XL that don't cross our border with Canada, so they don't need to be reviewed by the federal government. It's politics over facts, as it usually is in DC, and even lower gas prices will not put an end to this debate. Besides, the president has already said that he will veto XL, so it's pretty much a moot point.

The GOP-led house has also voted to undo Obama's executive order on immigration. This would expose many undocumented immigrants to deportation and would split up families whose children were born in this country, and are citizens, but whose parents could be sent back to their country of origin. That the conservatives were able to insert this language into the bill tells us that they are still alive and well and have the ability to push Speaker John Boehner to the right. The question is how much damage the caucus has done to the party, especially after the loss of Hispanic voters in the 2012 election.

The president has countered with some ideas that will appeal to the Democratic base and to the independent voter. First up is his plan for the government to pay for two years of community college for many prospective students. This is an excellent idea, but doesn't go far enough. If this country truly wants to be a meritocracy, then the government should pay for tuition for every student enrolled in an undergraduate program. Colleges can still keep their standards, but this will allow them to choose the truly deserving without have the ability to pay be an insurmountable roadblock. Will it be expensive? Yes, but the rewards will come back to us exponentially in knowledge, productivity, ingenuity and promise. It is time for such an investment in our future.

Obama has also called for a middle class tax cut to be funded mostly by having the top earners pay more and for the tax code to be reformed. This is an overdue policy, especially because it would end many tax breaks and lower rates that have traditionally gone to the top wage earners. A middle class cut would help those people still struggling with the aftereffects of the recession and, together with the drop in gas prices (for now) would put needed funds back in people's pockets and bank accounts.

Of course, both Obama initiatives will not survive in the Republican-controlled Congress but, like most good ideas, they will eventually become law because they will help the country. If the GOP wants to run against them in 2016 and believe they can win the election, then they should go ahead and do that. The Republican leadership has said that they want to work with the president. Here are some great ways to start doing just that.

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

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Latest GOP Swimsuit Competition

My apologies if the image of Chris Christie in a swimsuit finds you eating a meal while reading this. It's one of the hardships of the blogging trade, I know.

As mid-January hurries into late-January (a month of Mondays if there ever was one), we find ourselves confronted with news from the right side of the political spectrum as Hillary Clinton and any other would-be Democrats are seemingly taking the month off.

The big news, as usual, comes from New Jersey where the main question revolves around whether the Governor's actions in Dallas last weekend dealt a fatal blow to his presidential hopes. The thinking is that Christie's awkward embrace of Cowboy's owner Jerry Jones while wearing an orange sweater, was akin to Michael Dukakis in a tank or Howard Dean screaming. That is, an unpresidential image so egregious that it renders a candidate unelectable. My sense is that, no, this did not end Christie's run before it began (and it will begin later this month), but it did project Christie as the wanna-be he clearly is. And it also reinforces the notion that the man just doesn't think before he acts sometimes. He believes that he is always right and his aides reinforce that daily. The Dallas escapade might not be the end, but it presages another event that will hurt him sometime down the road. Bank on that.

More bigger than Christie, though, is the news that Mitt Romney is strongly considering a third run for the White House. This would be a very bad idea because third time candidates tend to become parodies and, then, national jokes.

William Jennings Bryan ran for the Democratic nomination four times in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, matching the Buffalo Bills for important national losses. Bryan, though, will always be remembered for his Cross of Gold speech, where he attempted to tie the business-friendly Republicans to a policy that would increase the suffering of the lower classes at the expense of the wealthy. Sound familiar? Today, Romney would more likely make a speech saying that a Cross of Gold would be a sound investment.

Even Teddy Roosevelt lost some luster when he ran for a third time in 1912, but he had the extra added legitimacy of having previously been president for almost eight years, and for being a firm advocate for responsible corporate behavior and for his solid conservation record. You know those national parks that Romney wants to open for drilling, exploration and timber? Roosevelt made them happen. Romney can only dream of that kind of influence, even if he does manage to get out of the primaries. Which he won't.

And finally, there's Jeb Bush, who apparently is evolving as we speak. And for someone whose view on evolution is somewhat suspect, it's refreshing to read that:
“There is an evolution in temperament and an evolution in judgment and an evolution in wisdom — and there is an evolution in his respect for others’ point of view,” said Al Cardenas, a longtime friend who insisted that Mr. Bush had “not changed his conservative values.”
Perhaps by the end of the campaign, Mr. Bush will evolve into a Democrat. OK, OK, I know, but a fella can dream, can't he?

So there you have it: the early mid-January political report. By the end of the month I would suspect that Mitt and Chris will join Jeb in the money-raising competition and then they'll all jump head first into the campaign sometime after the Supreme Court affirms the Affordable Care Act.

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

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Christie Back From Dallas. Why Is Everyone Else Leaving?

As if the Cowboy kerfuffle wasn't enough of a distraction for the governor, along comes another story where 'Boys owner Jerry Jones condescends to Christie's fandom by saying that having Christie in the owner's box is payback for when the not-governor was too poor to pay for parking. Jones also said that he will support Christie if he decides to run for president.

Which he will. And apparently he will make that announcement by the end of the month. It would certainly be a delicious treat for the candidate-in-waiting to be able to announce his intentions a day or two after the Cowboys win the Super Bowl on February 1, but I don't believe that is in the offing if the Green Bay Packers have anything to say about that. A Cowboys loss this Sunday would clear the news cycle for Christie's announcement, which I assume will come during the week when there's no game scheduled. The man might be unsuitable to be president, but he does have a knack for public relations.

But, oh! the complications. First up is a report that one of New Jersey's marquee employers, Mercedes-Benz, is leaving the state and heading for Georgia, which is cheaper and has lower taxes. This doesn't help Christie with the pro-business crowd and will further reduce the chance that New Jersey's economy has a robust recovery in time for the governor to run on a miracle.

Then comes another story that says that of people involved in an interstate move involving New Jersey, the vast majority are leaving the state--fleeing is the headline word--rather than moving in. This is not a scientific survey as the data is being supplied by United Van Lines, a moving company, but it does attest to what anecdotal evidence has suggested for years. The Governor will probably seize on these numbers to continue to argue against a millionaire's tax because his main argument has always been that more people will leave the state rather than pay. But since people seem to be leaving anyway, it doesn't say much about his improving things in the state.

The real damage, though, comes because these are more negative stories about New Jersey. Christie can go around the country and tell tales about bipartisanship and how he got the Democratic legislature to pass a pension and benefits bill, but his refusal to actually make a mandated payment will also follow him. As will the videos of him yelling at veterans and public employees. Americans do want someone who will fight for them, but they don't want someone who will fight them because he disagrees with them.

Finally, there's that darned Bush family. Yes, Jeb Bush is off and raising money for a White House bid that will directly compete for the same voters Christie needs for support during the primaries. And Jeb's talking about big issues like immigration and income inequality, while Christie is huddling with foreign policy experts to learn what to say in interviews. 

It's clear that Christie will rise above the silliness of the Dallas story, but the pertinent point is that once he declares himself a candidate for president, he will have precious little to run on.

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