Archive for May, 2011

All Politics Are Local

Sunday, May 29th, 2011

“Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.”
Matt 22:21

One of the challenges that Jesus had to overcome was the expectation that Messiah was going to be a political leader who would restore Israel to its previous stature as an independent power in the region.  Jesus mission was to reconcile man to God, not Israel to its neighbors.  So he told his disciples that they were still required to pay taxes and abide by the local laws even as they preached a gospel which promised a new way to live.

The new crop of fiscal conservatives finds themselves in a similar situation.  They got themselves elected with a promise to reduce the deficit.  Their philosophy is that the best way to reduce the deficit is to dramatically reduce government spending AND taxes.  As we’ve seen that is tall order.

Paul Ryan, however, proved he was up to the challenge.  He proposed a budget that did reduce government spending and taxes, and revoked the recently passed Healthcare Reform legislation to boot.  Though some analysts point out that it doesn’t really reduce the deficit, it was a bold statement because it included provisions to privatize both Medicare and Social Security.

In the first election where the public got an opportunity vote on that budget, a long shot Democrat defeated a popular Republican in a strong Republican congressional district.

Their resolve has been tested again this week.

From April 25-28, we had the worst outbreak of tornadoes in US history.  328 tornadoes touched down in 28 different states.  344 people died.  Alabama officials say they are facing the biggest rebuilding effort since the Civil war.

The Mississippi River is in the midst of its worst flood since 1927.  An area larger than the state of Delaware is under water.  30,000 structures have been severely damaged or destroyed and 25,000 people have been displaced.

Finally, we have Joplin, MO.  The single deadliest tornado on record literally flattened a town of 50,000 people killing 100.  The damage is so complete, that observers have been using the word Armageddon to describe the aftermath.

This week it was Eric Cantor’s turn to stand up and he did.

He said that he would block any additional funding to help these areas recover from the disasters that they have experienced unless that funding was balanced by additional spending cuts from the most recently negotiated budget.  Raising taxes or closing tax loopholes to generate the needed revenue are not an option.

This post is not about ideology or morality, though those are both rich areas that we could also explore.

This post is about politics.

Joplin is represented by Billy Long.  Billy is a Republican who ran on the motto that he was a member of the “Tea Party before the Tea Party was cool”.  So now Billy, who proclaimed his support for individual responsibility, financial conservatism, and much smaller federal government; has to tell Joplin that Eric Cantor is going to play politics with the money they desperately need to rebuild their town and that Billy supports that position.

As a result, Billy will almost certainly be looking for another job in 2012.

The same thing is going to happen with virtually every Republican representing an area that suffers a natural disaster between now and the next election.  Right now that is more than half the states in the country and it’s only just June.

Every senior concerned about their retirement is going to re-evaluate their vote for the party that proposed to reduce their benefits, just as they did in New York.

Here in Michigan the Republican governor just passed a budget which included a tax on pensions and dramatic reductions in school funding so that he could reduce business taxes by $2B.  How many of Michigan retirees, families with school-age kids, and folks who work in the public school system are going to vote Republican in the next election?

How many union members and their families are going to vote Republican next year in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Ohio where benefits and collective bargaining rights are under attack?

What we are seeing is that the radical Tea Party ideology doesn’t work in the real world.

People don’t want a smaller government.  They just want a government that works.  They don’t want to leave people in need to fend for themselves.  We are a better nation than that.  We help our fellow citizens when they need it, whether it is disaster, sickness, disability, or old age.  We want a strong social safety net and most of us are willing to pay for it.

As voters recognize that conservative Republicans are choosing ideology over local needs, they will punish Republicans for forgetting the first commandment.

All politics are local.

Respect

Sunday, May 15th, 2011

There is an interesting twist that has entered the political discourse since we elected an African American President.

That twist is that this President and the people who support him can no longer accuse anyone who opposes him of racism. 

His opponents are free to make the most vile depictions and accusations that they can think of and claim that they are political rather than racial. 

They claim that the overwhelming African American vote in 2008 somehow diminishes Obama’s election. This is part of the larger narrative that Obama somehow leveraged is African heritage to gain unfair advantage through out his life. Trump claims affirmative action helped Obama gain admittance into Columbia and Harvard even though he supposedly didn’t have the grades. 

So we have a guy who embodies the American success story, and a segment of Americans feel he is an impostor. 

He wasn’t born into a wealthy political family like both of our Bush presidents, Kennedy, and FDR.

What wealth he had, he and his wife earned through their work and his books. 

He was a virtual political unknown went he started his campaign for President unlike Ronald Reagan. 

He did benefit from scholarships and loans which allowed him to attend Ivy League schools, but he didn’t have the help of alumni parents as both Bush’s did.  He didn’t have wealthy parents to fund his education.  He and his wife were only able to finally pay off their college loans as a result of royalties he earned from his first book. 

Once he got to Columbia he had to prove that he belonged there in order to graduate. The grades and honors he received from Harvard, he earned. The faculty appointment at the University of Chicago was a recognition of his constitutional scholarship. 

It’s funny that no one questioned how another poor kid raised by his mother managed to get into Harvard, earn a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, and become President, but Bill Clinton was white. 

It’s also funny that while there was considerable interest in George W. Bush’s service in the National Guard during the Vietnam War, none of those documents were ever released. There was similar interest in Bush’s arrest record for either drunk driving or cocaine possession, but again not near the obsessive pursuit of data as this President has endured. 

So let’s call it like it is. 

Here’s the dictionary definition of racist. 

1. a belief or doctrine that inherent differences among the various human races determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that one’s own race is superior and has the right to rule others.

2. a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine; discrimination.

3. hatred or intolerance of another race or other races. 

Using that definition, these images are racists.

There were certainly offensive images circulated during the Bush administration mostly focused on the suggestion that Bush was ignorant or perhaps fascist. Those were certainly disrespectful, but they didn’t cross the line into racism. The difference was that no one suggested that Bush was ignorant because he was white. 

So even though you may think that Obama is the worst President this country has ever had, you still have no right to associate any of what you may feel are his short comings with the fact that he is an African American.  Attempting to disguise these attacks as normal politics is the worst kind of racism.