political convention

political convention

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From Irene to Qaddafi: Can't Obama Get Anything Right?

Republicans Peck Away at the Presidential Record

► Was President Obama responsible for Hurricane Irene and its destructive path along the east coast of the United States?  In the minds of some Republicans that's the way it seems.

Even before the storm made landfall, conservative politicians were raising questions about the funding of federal disaster relief as if the president had concocted a new liberal scheme. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor insisted that before money was spent to assist citizens whose homes and businesses were damaged by high winds or flooding, cuts had to be made elsewhere in the federal budget. Texas Republican Ron Paul said he opposed any disaster relief at all. 

Joined by right-wing radio personality Rush Limbaugh, Republicans suggested the president welcomed the catastrophe as an excuse to increase the size of government by turning loose the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).  

The New York Times reported that insurance industry analysts estimated the cost of Irene to be as high as $10 billion.  They ranked the storm in the top ten among disasters.  Hearing this news, would representatives Cantor and Paul step forward to offer budget-balancing cuts in federal money allocated for their states?  So far, silence on that one.

► A week before Irene hit the coast, President Obama and his family went on vacation in Martha’s Vineyard, a favorite leisure spot for rich people.  Republicans no doubt noticed the president’s impeccable timing.  He and the wife and kids made it back to the safety of the White House several days before the hurricane smacked the east coast. Conservatives earlier had criticized the president for taking a vacation at a posh resort when the unemployment rate was in the neighborhood of 9 or 10 percent.  Perhaps looking to make amends, the Obamas have begun planning for next year’s retreat.  Their top choice is to spend a few days on the banks of the colorful Cuyahoga River, which drains into Lake Erie at Cleveland.  No one vacations there so Secret Service protection will be easy.  Pictures of grumpy-faced Obama daughters sitting on the banks watching effluent float by will endear them to the unemployed. 

► Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry has criticized President Obama for never serving in the military.  The Texas governor said the president didn’t enlist even though he had the option to do so.  Instead, Obama attended Occidental College, Columbia University, and Harvard Law School, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review. 

Perry served in the U.S. Air Force between 1972 and 1977, flying C-130 transport planes in non-combat missions. 

Obama was 16 in 1977, but he later worked as a community organizer, civil rights lawyer and professor of law at the University of Chicago.  Earlier this year in his role as commander in chief the president oversaw a successful raid by U.S. special forces that killed Osama Bin Laden. Some top military commanders had preferred a risk-free air attack. But according to knowledgeable sources, Obama overruled them because he wanted certainty about the outcome. 

► Now that it looks like Muammar el-Qaddafi has been defeated by rebels in Libya, Republicans are criticizing President Obama for the limited U.S. role in the action.  Senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham said that the battle to depose Qaddafi should have taken less than the five and a half months it did.  The Obama administration provided air and logistical support to Libyan rebels at a cost of about a billion dollars, leaving most of the action up to NATO allies such as France and Italy, both just a short airplane hop from the shores of Tripoli.  McCain and Graham said they would have preferred the use of the full force of U.S. air power much like what happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.  A third trillion-dollar war would have given the U.S. a foothold on an additional continent. Like Gov.Perry of Texas, McCain and Graham are military veterans and have superior knowledge of the strategies and geopolitical implications of war.   

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Rick Perry's State of Bliss: Texas No Taxes

Going to Texas to find out how to run a state is like visiting certain Middle Eastern countries to learn about religious temperance. You’ll find a dominant ideological faction in charge that doesn’t want to hear about alternative ways of doing things.

 In the case of Texas, this faction includes Gov. Rick Perry, Tea Party members and far-right Republicans, all of whom believe, to put it in Texas lingo, that government should be as shrunken and shriveled as the discarded testicles of a Texas steer and taxes should be as low as the water in a dried up Texas lake.

Enticed by this vision, a group of Republican legislators from California, accompanied by the state’s Democratic lieutenant governor, is planning a trip to Texas. They want to know more about how Texas-style government attracts business and investment. The Republicans claim that businesses are leaving California for Texas and that Texas added more than 160,000 jobs between 2008 and 2010, while California lost more than a million jobs. Democrats are skeptical about the significance of these numbers. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, a former San Francisco Mayor and business-friendly liberal, said there are myths and realities about what’s happening in Texas and one should go there with an open mind. The state treasurer, a Democrat, was less circumspect, saying that any suggestion that the Texas model would be right for California was a “crock.”

Whatever the mythology, a business that resettles in Texas is, well, in Texas. It’s a land quickly becoming a third-world oligarchy where middle and working class people face a grim future of diminished educational opportunities and rotten public services. Highways, state parks, scholarships for college students, teacher incentive pay, and medical and nursing home care for the poor and elderly are all in line to be guillotined under proposed budget cuts. According to the New York Times, these cuts, amounting to $23 billion, come on top of years in which government funds have been successfully targeted by right wing ideologues. Texas has an opportunity to ameliorate some of its current problems by using a rainy day fund. But, the Times reports that this step is out of the question because the money was raised from taxes on oil production and using it for ordinary governmental purposes would weaken anti-tax resolve. In Texas, no taxes.

California has its own problems. And California Republicans are just about as intransigent as those in Texas. But in California the Democrats are in the majority so new taxes are on the table and some thought is devoted to the consequences of drastic cuts for ordinary people. As for the business climate, the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Democratic Governor Jerry Brown has reminded Republicans that California leads in creativity and receives 50 percent of all venture capital money.

In addition, Texas weather is hell compared to California’s.

Originally posted on LaughingStockNation April 9, 2011

Rick Perry's Country (Hint: It's Not the USA)

Texas joined the union in 1845, but for 10 years before that it was an independent country. Some Texans want to return to those good old days when the Republic of Texas didn’t have to answer to Washington. In April 2009 Texas Gov. Rick Perry told a Tea Party rally that he was tired of the federal government’s fiscal policies and its meddling in Texas affairs. If things didn’t change, he made clear, Texas might secede from the union. It had happened once before when Texas joined the Confederate States of America March 2, 1861.

Perhaps intoxicated by his own words, Perry in 2009 rejected $500 million in federal economic stimulus money. But he soon had second thoughts and took a $17 billion stimulus package for his state.

Now, Texas has requested $830 million from a federal program meant to support education. But Perry and other Republicans want to place their own conditions on use of the money. Instead of directly funding schools, they want to add it to the state budget to overcome a massive deficit. Schools would get a share of whatever the legislature and governor decided to dole out. At first the Obama administration resisted this scheme. But earlier this month they let the Texans have their way as a concession to win Republican support for the bill that kept the federal government from closing down.

The picture all of this paints of Perry and his secessionist compatriots is one of hypocrisy and manipulation. They disdain the federal government but they sure love the money coming in. .

The hypocrisy continued this week when Gov. Perry blasted President Obama and whined about the government's slow response to his request for federal disaster aid for Texas. Perry asked for help two weeks ago when wild fires were scorching large areas of his state. In contrast, Alabama was declared a disaster area and received a commitment of aid along with a presidential visit just two days after devastating tornadoes killed more than 400 people.

Clearly, the administration isn't holding up federal assistance to the people of Texas to make a political point. But the deliberate pace of the government response may nonetheless serve as a small reminder to Gov. Perry that careless talk of insurrection is irresponsible and may have consequences.

By the way, when the secessionist notion first came up, actor Chuck Norris said he might like to run for president of the new country of Texas.

Originally posted on LaughingStockNation April 29, 2011