Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

We Don’t Negotiate With Zombies

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

We’ve spent some time examining the underlying historical and psychological reasons for Zombie Politics.

An additional bit of data came out today suggesting that liberal and conservative differences can be predicted by how our brains respond to risk. Fundamental physiological differences could determine political preferences. That further re-enforces wisdom of our founding fathers in setting up a government which requires compromise in order to function.

That still leaves the open question of what to do about the current problem where some conservative Republicans are so invested in their particular political views that they appear unable to compromise.

Fortunately, we live in a democracy where the majority of voters rejected the most recent Republican campaign based primarily on Zombie positions. Since politicians, just like the rest of us, share survival as a primary motivation; conservative politicians have already taken notice.

We’ve already seen John Boehner disciplining the worst Tea Party offenders in the House in an effort to regain control of that group.

Karl Rove has blamed the Zombie Politics of the Tea Party for the November Republican loss. He has pledged to run more moderate Republicans against Tea Party incumbents and protect moderate Republicans against primary attacks from the radical right.

The most recent example is Florida Governor Rick Scott reversing himself on the federally subsidized expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare.

Scott built his political career on opposing Obamacare. His base of support has been the Tea Party.

He is clearly not the ideologue he has appeared to be. He made the calculation that he will gain more support from changing his position than he will lose. Florida Hospitals in particular were very concerned about how their costs would rise if Florida declined to participate in this expansion of Medicaid. So at the end of the day, Scott demonstrated that he wasn’t crazy after all. He was simply a politician taking advantage of whatever opportunities he could to stay in office. His erstwhile Tea Party backers are furious, but he has decided, just like Karl Rove, that it is time for him to move on.

Over the next several weeks we are going to see another sorting out of those who really are Zombies versus those who have simply been dressing up that way in order to avoid being eaten.

That’s because the Republicans are again poised to lose the battle over the sequester cuts. The Wash Post explains why very simply and it is reflected in this graph.

2013-02-19-Obama-and-Congress-approval

  1. Regular people have no idea what the sequester is right now and, even once it kicks in, aren’t likely to pay all that close of attention to it unless they are directly affected by it.
  2. Obama is popular with the American public
  3. Congress is not.

In fact, even cockroaches are more popular with the American public than Congress.

Pew Research confirms that almost half of the voters blame Republicans in Congress for the problem.

Given all of these facts, and the realities that even conservative politicians know all too well, why are Republicans still committed to what appears to be a suicide mission?

Zombie Politics

Republicans are still invested in the smaller government, low tax, cut spending philosophy that the American people rejected. They feel that they lost credibility in the tax hike compromise that was part of the fiscal cliff deal. If they cave now on sequester cuts, they fear that they will have lost whatever support they have left with their base. They are terrified of what Obama will do next if he wins this battle too. They also believe that they will be able to blame Obama for whatever economic damage the sequester cuts cause and perhaps ride that to a Senate majority in 2014.

The problem is that if they go through with their plan, it will not only backfire on them for the reasons listed above. It will re-enforce the majority view that conservative Republicans DO NOT have the best interests of the country at heart. It will further erode the whole conservative philosophy that government is bloated and wasteful. Instead, virtually every American will experience what life is like without the government services that we depend on and the underlying economic support that government spending provides. The most direct effect will be that unemployment jumps (it already has) as the economy continues to contract (it started in December). The stock market will tank. Air travel will slow. Major defense contracting states (mostly republican) will bear the brunt of the job losses. Meat and poultry prices will rise because of inspection shortages which will affect supply. Head Start classes would close. SBA loans would stop. Federal Research grants would stop. Grants supporting Mental Health treatment would stop. Courts will slow because of lack of investigators and attorneys. More first responders will lose their jobs. Tax return processing and refunds would slow.

Every American will discover that federal state and local governments do a lot of good things. They will discover that government is NOT bloated, inefficient, and wasteful. Government is not a collection of faceless uncaring bureaucrats. The government is us. It is our relatives, friends, and neighbors. They will discover that government is a vital part of everyday life and that the Republican vision of dramatically reducing the size of government is really a nightmare. And they will AGAIN punish Republicans in 2014 as they did in 2012 for intentionally damaging the economy for political purposes.

Healthcare

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

“Physician health thyself” Luke 4:23

For all of those out there who have cried socialism at the prospect of healthcare reform, here’s a little more information on how the current free market system is serving Americans.

The American Journal of Medicine recently published a study which documents that 62% of ALL the bankruptcies in 2007 were attributed to medical problems. Not job loss. Not home foreclosure. Not irresponsible speculation or drug addiction. These were people who got sick, needed care, in most cases had insurance, and still couldn’t pay the bills.

Also the rate of bankruptcies due to medical costs rose 50% during the Bush administration.

This is all the more disturbing because the data came from a period before the current financial collapse.

This wasn’t just poor people either. These were middle class families who exhausted their life savings trying to pay their bills.

There is something fundamentally wrong with a system where hard working people can’t afford to fall ill.

That’s why the government has to step in to provide at least some baseline level of affordable coverage which doesn’t bankrupt individuals or businesses. You can call it whatever you want, but it is clear that those countries who are making this investment have lower healthcare costs per citizen, healthier populations, more financially secure citizens, and more profitable businesses.

As we’ve seen with the recent financial collapse, the free market system is not the answer in all circumstances. Healthcare is just another example. Kudos to the Obama adminstration for recognizing that the key to our recovery is dramatic change in the way healthcare is delivered in this country.

Winning

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

How do you win the war on terror?

If we are talking about military steps, in the modern era we say it is over and go home.

The Obama administration is already taking those steps in Iraq and making the investments to get Afghanistan to the point where we can do that too.

In a more profound way, though, the way we win the war on terror is to eliminate enemy.

If there is no enemy, there is no terror.

If there is no enemy, there is no war.

The Bush administration wanted us to believe that we could kill all our enemies because we were so much more powerful than they were.

The reality is that we can’t kill them all, and our efforts to do so only made them stronger because two rose up to take the place of every one that we killed.

Instead President Obama is going to unmask our enemy and reveal that they are more like us and we are more like them than either of us would like to admit.

He is doing that by reaching out to the Muslim world to change their perception of the United States. What better person to do that than a brown skinned man with a muslim-sounding name.

The Muslim world won’t trust the United States overnight. They will want to see tangible evidence that the United States is serious about peace in the Middle East and in Iraq.

Obama is, however, laying the groundwork. He intends to treat the Muslim world with the same sort of respect that we would like to see from them. He will follow that with a diplomatic plan to address the issues that represent barriers to peace.

Ultimately, he will succeed and win the war on terror by turning our enemies into our friends.

Some who read this are going to immediately assume that it is naive to assume that one man could have that effect. One group, however, is taking Mr. Obama’s initiative very seriously. That group is Al Qaeda. If their actions are any indication, they are afraid of him. If President Bush was their greatest recruiting tool, President Obama may be their greatest enemy. I believe he is their greatest enemy because he knows he can win this war.

Unrighteous

Sunday, February 15th, 2009

“Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed.” Isa 10:1

One of the great things about our democracy is that old friends can have fundamental differences about things like economic policy, and yet the country still moves forward. That’s because every four years we all get to vote.

The last eight years President Bush earned the opportunity to test trillion dollar tax-cuts, unrestrained capitalism, and cowboy foreign policy. The results of that experiment pretty much speak for themselves.

The American voters had a clear choice in November. Republicans didn’t offer many new ideas. Instead they chose to attack the guy I liked. They called him inexperienced, a socialist, a friend of terrorists, a baby killer, and a Muslim. A majority of voters saw through that. Now my guy has earned the opportunity to take us in a different direction.

Because of the problems President Obama inherited, that direction includes massive short-term government spending. In the near future it may also include taking over failing financial institutions (like the infamous socialist Reagan did during the S&L crisis) and restructuring mortgages.

I didn’t like much of what the Bush administration did the last eight years. I suspect those who supported McCain and Bush won’t find much they like in the Obama administration.

The facts, however, are hard to avoid. The Bush administration added $5T to the national debt, started two wars, and left the country in the worst financial condition since Herbert Hoover. But when Democrats propose $800B to accelerate the recovery, Republicans call it “generational theft” and followed that up with a proposal for a $2.5T tax cut.

Rather than ideas, Republicans only have tired rhetoric – “tax-cuts are good” and “liberal/socialist spending is bad”. Their only plan for success requires President Obama to fail. Given the serious challenges facing this country that is a sad commentary.

The Kingdom

Sunday, October 19th, 2008

Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32

So what is the kingdom of God’s promise? My understanding is that it is everything that we need to grow in our understanding of ourselves and him.

My sense of this moment in time is that the kingdom is going to be a new social paradigm.

For those who have been following some of my previous posts, the crisis that we are facing bears and eerie resemblance to the Fourth Turning predicted by some generational historians. If their theories are accurate, we will have to create a new social order to survive this crisis – the kingdom.

What is fascinating about this whole financial scenario is that it ultimately is the death knoll for the concept of self-regulating markets. What we are going to see now is whole new global regulatory structure which will enforce more conservative investment practices and prevent institutions from getting into the upside down position that they found themselves earlier this year.

The US will have less influence in this system than it had in the past because, among other things, we were the ones who promoted the strength of the unregulated market. Asia, Russia, and the Middle East have a bigger role in this new system because they are the winners in the current global economy.

The other casualty is the conservative fantasy of small government. The election this fall will only serve as evidence of something that most thoughtful people already know.

The era of conservative influence is over. When the conservatives running the government were staring down the barrel of the gun of global financial collapse, they abandoned their principles and embraced the biggest package of government socialism that we’ve ever seen. Our government has adopted a policy of nationalization of a significant portion of our financial infrastructure.

So when you begin to unravel this conservative fantasy, it leaves a lot exposed. The conservative/libertarian ethos is that an individual should be completely accountable for their own actions. They are solely responsible for their own success or failure. So by extension, if government just left everyone alone, defended the borders, and kept the peace – the marketplace would sort everything else out by rewarding the just and punishing the unjust.

What this crisis (and really the last eight years) has proven is that this philosophy no longer works in a globally connected economy. We are interconnected and co-dependent. Our attempt to go it alone, in one great last grasp for conservative greatness, has left us battered and weak.

The more cynical in the audience might take this a step further and suggest that those in power only used conservative principles to gain power. When it served their purposes, they were conservatives. When it was their own money on the line, they suddenly morphed almost overnight into liberals advocating big government socialism.

So where do we go from here?

What the Four Turnings researchers predict is that a new leader will emerge to help define this new social order. The old divisions will evaporate as we all realize that our collective survival requires a new identity.

My sense is that we need leadership which can embrace a new global role for both government and citizens. Our opportunity is to become leaders of this a new emerging globalism because our interdependencies and our problems can no longer be defined by our borders or our old ideologies.

Financial markets, global warning, stateless terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and continued conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq all require multi-national solutions. Our ability to be a leader in those solutions will depend on our ability to put our own internal differences aside and embrace this new globalism ourselves.

Our opportunity is to become a leader in forging new alliances to marginalize stateless terrorism by addressing the root causes that give it life.

Our opportunity is to become leader in building a new carbon-neutral economy.

Our opportunity is to embrace the real promise of the American dream for all those who are willing to work for it regardless of color, creed, birthplace, or sexual orientation.

We are going to need everyone in the boat pulling on the oars to raise our country out of the problems it is currently confronting. The good news is that we have a generation of young people eager to take on that role. The bad news is that in order to accept the kingdom that our Father is poised to provide to us, we have to be willing to give up our previous closely held beliefs about what it might look like.

When you vote in November, spend a little time evaluating which of the two men running has the vision to lead us to this new social order.