Sunday morning rain coming down

It is a rainy Sunday reminding me of the Kris Kristofferson song lyric. While his song is more on lament, the metaphor is good. Here are few thoughts to kick around:

– it appears a debt ceiling agreement has been reached between the president and speaker, but still has to get passed. The frustration is the continual last minute chicken playing that goes on instead of serious bipartisan discussion with data. We are nowhere near solving our debt problem. The debt ceiling is to allow us to pay for borrowing we have already spent.

– the Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has been so fraudulent, his own party approved by a significant majority, his impeachment. With Representative George Santos being charged with a crime of fraud, even the US House has not censured Santos, so Texas Republicans at least acted to say enough is enough.

– apparently, the former president may have been even more fraudulent with the classified documents he removed from the White House. Adding to his other court convictions and pending charges for election meddling and maybe seditious actions around the insurrection, why this person is even being considered for president is beyond me.

– finally, you only get one time to make a first impression, but Florida Governor Ron DeSantis could ill-afford a poor roll out of his campaign given his other problems. He now needs to recover from a hole he is in. This is not unlike the ACA roll out which was botched through poor web-design that Obama should have made sure of beforehand given its importance. The ACA got better, but it had to overcome an unforced error.

As an old boss told me once, he is like a big umbrella to keep the s**t from raining down on us from the corporate bosses. We need our leaders to do their job with seriousness of purpose and get their umbrellas out. They could begin with not creating their own mess.

Playing chicken with the debt – letter to the editor

While we need to deal with our debt in a holistic fashion, playing chicken with the debt ceiling gives the illusion of good governance, but is rushed. For example, one of provisions of the Republican bill on the debt ceiling would increase the debt by $120 billion. From an article called “GOP’s cut to IRS funding in debt limit plan would backfire” by Brian Faler of Politico:

“Republicans’ proposal to rescind $71 billion in IRS funding pushed through by Democrats last year would cut projected tax receipts by $191 billion over the next decade, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimates. The result: The government would find itself an additional $120 billion in the hole.”

This provision is designed to help aggressive taxpayers who benefit greatly from their efforts to mask income. So, it runs counter to the goal of reducing the debt while helping the wealthy.

Comments on US debt from Maya MacGuineas director of Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget

Note, this is a repeat post from January. It has increased in relevance since that time. From the desk of Maya MacGuineas of the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. I will offer no additional comment as it speaks for itself.

“Today, the Treasury Department announced that it has begun engaging in a set of accounting tools known as “extraordinary measures” to avoid breaching the nation’s $31.38 trillion statutory debt limit. Those measures are expected to delay that breach until at least early June and possibly later.

The following is a statement from Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget:

Without qualification, the debt limit must be increased or suspended, and it should be done so as quickly as possible. Ideally, we would return to the practice of lifting the debt ceiling without relying on extraordinary measures – which have become all too ordinary – and refrain from making the increase anything close to a last-minute showdown.

The debt ceiling is too important to turn into a game of chicken, and default should never be suggested by those with a fiduciary responsibility to govern the nation. Politicians who are rightly worried about the nation’s unsustainable borrowing path should take a hard stance against new borrowing and oppose legislation that would add to the debt while offering specific solutions to control the debt already on the books, rather than threatening not to pay the bills on borrowing that has already been incurred.

The debt ceiling does offer the opportunity for all lawmakers to pause, assess the fiscal situation of the nation, and take action as necessary. And it is necessary. The debt as a share of GDP is at near record levels. We are on track to begin adding $2 trillion per year to the debt by the end of the decade. Interest payments are the fastest growing part of the budget and are projected to start costing $1 trillion annually in only a few years. The Social Security and Medicare Hospital Insurance trust funds are headed toward insolvency. And last year alone, Congress and the President passed bipartisan legislation that added nearly $2 trillion to the projected national debt. This is an urgent problem that is not getting the attention it needs.

An ideal solution would be for Congress to lift the debt ceiling as soon as possible and at the same time put in place measures to improve our fiscal trajectory. This could include specific policies or processes such as a fiscal commission.

Attaching fiscal reforms to the debt limit was common practice in the past when both policies and processes to improve fiscal responsibility were included as part of a deal. More recently, in a jaw-dropping act of fiscal irresponsibility, politicians in both parties pivoted to support debt ceiling increases along with legislation that made the debt worse. Under President Trump, the debt ceiling was lifted three times with bipartisan support and included legislation that added in total a stunning $2.1 trillion in new borrowing to the debt.

Congress should return to the past model of a debt ceiling increase, legislation to improve the fiscal situation, and a broad based understanding that the debt ceiling must be increased in a calm and timely manner. We must not threaten default. The cost is simply too high.“

Monday morning you sure look fine – May, 2023

With all due respect to Fleetwood Mac, let me once again borrow these lyrics this Monday in May. Typing Monday in May reminds me of another song lyric by Three Dog Night, “I’ve got pieces of April, but it’s a morning in May.”

Now that I have provided two ear worms in one paragraph, let me throw out a few thoughts:

– the US debt ceiling increase has once again become a game of playing chicken; my strong advice to all concerned – GET IT DONE. Then, spend the needed time with data and look at both tax increases and spending cuts as both will be needed. I am not sure what frustrates me most, the playing chicken with the debt or the callous disregard for a thoughtful exercise to address the problem. Republicans have shown they only care about the debt when not in power and Democrats need to think through some spending cuts that can be made, along with tax increases that the GOP abhors.

– the environmental concerns we have caused are becoming more apparent as the detection of forever chemicals are cropping up in more places. I have often cited Dr. Sandra Steingraber, who is a biologist, ecologist and bladder cancer survivor. We humans do not consider enough the role the environment plays on our health often focusing only on hereditary concerns. When we do focus on them, we tend to consider the impact on a 50 year old man, when we should be considering the impact on children who are closer to the ground, mouth breathe more, place hands in their mouth more and whose lungs and brain are not fully developed. The exposure and impact is simply greater for a child than an adult.

– speaking of children, we owe it to them to crank up the efforts of dealing with climate change in an all hands on deck manner. There are several examples of action in motion that should be accelerated with funding. We must stop putting as much carbon in the air and start taking carbon out of the air. We also need to deal with the increase in methane that is escaping from vented natural gas sites and through the arctic ice as it melts. There are natural carbon eaters such as mangroves along the shore, large forests, offshore kelp farms, etc. that can be nurtured. Plus, they are investing more in renewable energy sources that take advantage of the natural elements to a region be they solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, etc. Progress has been made, but a lot more is needed, now.

These are only a few key things we need to discuss. I am tired of politicians who flitter from various sensational issues and causing problems rather than solving them. If hurting our children by not dealing with toxins, destroying our planet or leaving them with our debts is not sensational enough, I don’t know what it is.

Let me close with an example. Living in North Carolina, I have been aware of the push on the Department of Defense for decades to effectively deal with the toxic water at Camp Lejeune that was killing US Marines and their families. The base families finally got their attention when they served the ugly looking and odorous water to the leaders when they came to visit. It should not take that long to address these issues.

Do not default on America’s debts

Note to Democrat and Republican leadership – DO NOT DEFAULT on America’s debts. That is beyond poor stewardship and borders on malfeasance. And, it certainly is not a conservative principle.

Find a way to get it done and then talk in greater detail about doing things to reduce the debt and deficit. You could start with listening to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. Like the Simpson Bowles Deficit Reduction Committee, this group advocates both tax increases and spending cuts. Otherwise, the math simply will not work despite what politicians say.

Both parties have left something to be desired on dealing with our debt. Yet, it is the Republicans who have been the worse steward having increased debt by $2 trillion with a tax cut in 2018 when they led both chambers in Congress and the White House and unbalanced a surplus budget when the younger Bush took over for Bill Clinton again with a tax cut Bush’s Treasury Secretary said was unneeded.

The grandstanding needs to stop. Playing chicken with a very serious matter has to stop. Pretending to only care about the debt when not in charge has to stop. First pay our bills, then fix the problem with a holistic solution.

Thursday throwaways

The week is nearing its end as we head toward Mother’s Day. Here are a few throwaway remarks on this Thursday. In no particular order:

-Note to CNN, if you have a Town Hall with Donald Trump make sure you have an audience that represents America. Watching Trump lie with impunity is not a Town Hall I want to watch. To continue to tell the same election was stolen BS after the $1 billion plus and counting penance for gaslighting by Fox News is just stuff we no longer need to hear.

-Note to House Republican leadership, you should have avoided putting newly arrested George Santos on two committees. This future train wreck was very visible back in January when he was sworn in. The wisest course would have been to not seat him pending further investigation, but placing him on committees exposed the rest of the country to his deceptive ways.

-Note to Democrat and Republican leadership – DO NOT DEFAULT on America’s debts. That is beyond poor stewardship and borders on malfeasance. And, it certainly is not a conservative principle. Find a way to get it done and then talk in greater detail about doing things to reduce the debt and deficit. You could start with listening to the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget.

-Don’t forget your mothers. Unfortunately, our two are gone, but we will remember them well. We will do something for my wife and mother of our three adult children, but it will be a more somber day. I used to call my mother at 7 pm every day when she went into a memory long term care facility, so I would think of her calling for months after she passed.

Have a great rest of your week and weekend.

It is hard for Cruz to be part of the solution (a reprise post from 2016)

I read this morning that Senator Ted Cruz has once again said defaulting on the debt would not be a problem for the US. This is the second time to my knowledge of his saying something like this. About eight or nine years ago, he single-handedly brought the US within twenty-four hours of defaulting on its debt. It took ten female senators from both parties to tell him to get out of the pool, it is time for an adult swim as they solved the impasse. Let me be crystal clear – the US defaulting on its debt is not only an unconservative idea, it is an inane and imprudent one. Here is a post about Mr. Cruz that I wrote seven years ago.

Saying people are angry with Washington is sloppy reporting and does a disservice to the problem. There is a large group who is angry for the legislators not collaborating enough to get things done. Then, there is a group who is angry that their representatives are not strident enough in their convictions to only get things done their way. Let’s set aside the veracity or lack thereof of those convictions.

The latter group has been tapped into by the two men leading the GOP race. The problem is they are angry at the wrong people. Senator Ted Cruz is one of those leaders of the strident group and advocates that he is the solution. That is difficult for me to fathom, as Ted Cruz is part of the problem.

Cruz is a grandstander who has made an effort to not work with his colleagues at any level. He has ridiculed the leadership, embarrassing them on occasion. As a result, his senate colleagues will not go to bat for him. It should be noted when Senator John McCain’s birth in the US Panama Canal Zone became a minor issue, the Senate passed a bill that said just to make sure, this is not a problem. With the issue over Cruz’ birth in Canada becoming an issue, he should not expect a hall pass from the Senate. That speaks volumes.

And, he personally shut our government down for 16 days. The President had to cancel his attendance at two important international trade meetings, which is a key role for the position of President. If it were not for ten female Senators, the US would have defaulted on some debt, which would have been a horrible move per other countries and the head of the International Monetary Fund. This is as good an example of why Cruz would be such a disaster as President.

Yet, if we get back to what I set aside, Cruz is also part of the problem based on his positions. His bellicose rhetoric about carpet bombing shows his ignorance of the challenges of the Middle East. While not as blatant as Trump he has demonized more than a few groups of people. And, Cruz tends to overlook facts when he criticizes policies. If it is not his way, then it cannot be working.

Most Americans want Congress and the President to get things done. They want collaboration. Cruz just wants the attention. He wants it to be his way or no way. He is not the solution. Ted Cruz is part of the problem. And, that is even before he bailed on Texans to Cancun during a storm.

Friday follies and foibles Cinco de Mayo

Happy Cinco de Mayo. For a no-longer-drinker, have a Corona or margarita for me. Those days are long behind me, thank goodness. Just a few miscellaneous follies and foibles to start the celebration.

I saw where The Donald is considering testifying in his rape trial. The judge has given him until Sunday at 5 pm to decide. Oh, I hope he does. When your history is one of making things up, getting in front of a judge and jury is not the best action Trump could take. An attorney once said he got Trump to change thirty or so statements during one deposition to avoid perjury. One deposition – 30 or so lies.

Speaking of lawsuits, I am delighted to see Disney suing the autocratic governor of Florida for infringing on their business. The governor is picking on the largest tourism destination in a state run by sales tax revenue using them as a scapegoat for wokeness, which many cannot define. The term is used as a weapon like any name calling term, but at its heart it is good to be universally accepting and supportive of all people’s rights. To me, this is just one of the many infringements the governor and his party are imposing on people.

Between, DeSantis and his twin Greg Abbott in Texas, two of the largest states in the US are so poorly governed. Abbott does not get the national press DeSantis gets, but he makes a similar habit of not taking criticism well, saying derogatory things and infringing on the rights of those who do not look like our Europeans immigrants that came here.

There are imperfect people in the Democrat party, but I can argue policy with them or ask why they have not followed through on campaign promises? Trump created a bigger mess at the southern border than existed before he became president, but Joe Biden has not made things better. We need to hold him to what he said he would do, as we are not holding to our ideals as we make it very difficult to come here.

Finally, we need to deal with our debt problem, but not paying our bills is not the solution. It is the result. We need serious fact based discussion on a variety of solutions including raising revenue and cutting expenses. Grandstanding changes as the Republicans in the House have done is not the way to go about this. We should remind Republicans, they are not very good at solving our debt problem especially when in charge. Think George W. Bush cutting taxes to eliminate a surplus budget and Donald Trump cutting taxes to increase the debt by $2 trillion. Anyone can cut taxes, but we have to pay did things and watch spending both.

Wednesday walkabout early in May

What a great day for a walkabout. As I wander, here are a few thoughts I might take with me.

A general thought that I cannot seem to shake is it would be nice for legislators to focus on solving problems and getting something done, rather than grandstand.

To this purpose, it would be helpful if they took the time to study the issues we need to focus on and stop telling us what funders have paid them to do.

It is depressing how low the US Supreme Court has fallen. Not only has it become more political than before, it has added unethical behavior to the mix. Part of the reason is when the needed Senate votes dropped from 60 to 51 to approve someone. As a result, we have people on the court who are more strident in their views.

Stepping away from Washington, we have a more than the two most notorious governors in Florida and Texas who have decided leadership of all citizens is not what they are there for. They have also decided civil rights need not be evenly distributed or warranted. That is shameful in my view.

It would help if all of these folks noted above could spend a little more time with the truth and less time asking for and counting their money. We hear about the flood of people coming across the border, but the real crisis is we are purposefully bottlenecking folks from crossing. While the former president was awful as he created this mess, the current president has not followed through on improving the process.

Whether it is climate change, water, environment, debt, healthcare, et al, let’s focus on the truth and address these issues. And, stop exaggerating or contriving issues that are not that important, but designed to distract voters.

Now, that I have gotten that off my chest, I can finish my walk.

Thursday thoughts and theories

As I sit down searching for a topic to which I want to devote a post, I am at a loss. I usually do better when I have started a post or at least recorded a title or pasted a link to an article to use the days before. So, with an eye toward alliteration, here are some random Thursday thoughts and theories.

First, I wonder who got shot last night in America? Someone did as we simply cannot help ourselves. Someone rang the wrong doorbell with a hand of a darker color or they may have just pulled in the driveway. Or, they may have been jogging or walking in a neighborhood wearing the darker color on their skin. Or, they just were at the wrong place at the wrong time when a disgruntled former employee, racist or mentally unstable person came a calling with a weapon that could kill many at one time. Or, maybe two old friends or relatives got into an argument over something stupid and one is now shot dead. Or, maybe a four year-old found daddy’s weapon and shot his older brother, sister, mother or father.

Second, it is truly amazing how an entity who just committed to pay one person it defamed $250 million and another entity it defamed $787.5 million with yet another pending lawsuit of $2.7 billion for defamation, can be non-specific as a news agency for what has transpired. I wish the settlement could have included an on air apology from Fox News. “We are sorry we lied to our viewers about Dominion Voting Systems and to cover for the lies of the former president.”

Third, in a state where tax revenue comes from sales tax built on a large engine of tourism, picking on the company which owns the largest tourist attraction in the state which feeds other tourist attractions is not the wisest of moves. The reason the governor does not like them – they are outspoken about treating all people fairly. Such a shame to actually follow that golden rule thing that some guy named Jesus talked about.

Fourth, speaking of governors, it seems to me the states of Florida and Texas are having a race to see who can restrict the most rights of non-white Americans. Sometimes it is not as clear as to the motivation, but each has embraced contrived or exaggerated issues to use as weapons to divide and limit. They also have embraced The Big Lie of the former president about the election being stolen from him to use as a reason to limit voting. Please read the above about Fox News’ defamation cases and the written evidence they knew they were gaslighting their viewers and public pushing Trump’s BS.

Fifth, we have an immediate crisis facing us with our debt ceiling in the US. If we do not raise this ceiling, we will default on some debt. We need to reduce our debt and deficit, so I do not mind discussions to do so, but what I detest is the gamesmanship. If the debt is such a big deal, why did nothing get done when Republicans ruled both chambers and had the White House, other than make the debt worse by over $2 trillion for the next ten years? Quite simply, dealing with the debt will require revenue increases and spending cuts, but neither side is willing to speak to both sides of this issue. Who says this? – the nonpartisan Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget and do not let ANY politician tell you we can reduce the debt with one or the other.

That is all folks. Have a great day and weekend.