Beliefs equal facts per the GOP

At last week’s Republican Convention, the big loser was accuracy and factual data. Why let the facts get in the way of your story? If you want to scare the hell out of folks and tell everyone how bad things are and that you alone are the man and group to fix such problems, then why should facts interfere with that narrative? The problem is what was presented is largely at odds with the truth. I ask people who tell me how bad things are by asking a simple question, what country are you talking about?

John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” broadcast on Sunday shows the several bald-faced lies that were told by the convention speakers, including their nominee. The fact the nominee lied is not news as he has broken all records for lying in a campaign dating back to when fact checkers started measuring comments. What turned out to be the most fascinating conversation was an interview with former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who is portrayed as the most serious and knowledgeable GOP spokesperson.

During the interview, the reporter challenged him when he said violent crime is up in America. The reporter said the data clearly shows a decline over the last twenty-five years. Gingrich refused to concede that, but the reporter kept insisting. She gave him an out saying there are a couple of large cities where it has gone up the past year and he seized that, but she reiterated it has clearly declined over time. Gingrich then said people believe it to be higher and I will leave the data to the liberals and media. “As a politician, beliefs are more important,” said Gingrich. Unfortunately, he was not the only person to say he believed something over facts, so in so doing it must make it true.

As Oliver pointed out, it does not work that way. You cannot substitute your beliefs for facts and think everything is alright. You can believe all you want that climate change is a hoax and even make it more colorful as The Donald does adding it is a hoax invented by the Chinese to steal our jobs. But, it remains a huge problem we must deal with.

Let me offer a few facts in rebuttal to the story painted at the GOP convention.

  • America’s economy is actually doing pretty well, especially related to the rest of the world. The stock market has more than doubled under Obama, unemployment is down to under 5%, 10 million plus net jobs have been created on his watch and we are currently on the 5th (soon to be 4th) longest economic growth period ever in the US.
  • In 2015, the US sold more US made cars than ever before, beating the previous record, ironically, when Bill Clinton was President.
  • The rest of the world still respects the US as we have higher ratings than when Obama took the reins from Bush. Our reputation had fallen with the WMD story. By the way, the British just completed their review of the Iraq invasion story and were highly critical of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush. We have chosen to investigate Benghazi ad nauseam rather than the WMD issue.
  • The Affordable Care Act is not perfect and needs improvements, but is working pretty well with over 20 million new insureds and slower cost growth than before it was implemented.
  • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has penalized banks, credit card companies and pay-day lenders over $11 Billion for aggressive and fraudulent marketing practices, with over 90% of that money going to cheated consumers. Consumers benefit, but GOP legislators hate this program. By the way, Senator Elizabeth Warren played a strong role in its passage and implementation.

I could go on, but we are in a much better place than was told last week. Yes, we have things to improve upon such as the declining middle class and increased poverty which have occurred over the last forty years and we must have better dialogue around race and violence issues, as well as gun governance, but America is not going to hell in a hand basket. And, even if it were, The Donald is the absolute worst person to be given keys to the car. His track record is one of great salesmanship, but poor management.

So, please ask questions of politicians and don’t let them off the hook if they say they believe it to be so. Show me your data.

 

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Letter from Mitt Romney to Barack Obama

This is not a real letter, but one that could be written.

Dear Mr. President,

I hope this finds you well. I know we have had our differences and I disagree with some of the positions and decisions you have made, but I want to commend you for your role in helping lower the unemployment rate to 5%. As you know, I promised during our campaign to get the unemployment rate down to 6% by the end of 2016, so you have done well on this issue. I also commend you for overseeing 68 consecutive months of job growth in our country, which has helped reduce this rate.

While I could not advocate this during the campaign, I would like to thank you for using many features of Romneycare as part of your formulation of Obamacare. I take pride that Romneycare is working well in Massachusetts helping to lower the overall mortality rate and am proud that you borrowed from my successful template. I recognize it still needs some seasoning, but Obamacare is on the right track for our country. As you know, I shared these thoughts in an interview a few weeks ago.

We still have our work cut out for us, so I hope our next President can build on these successes. By the way, our friend Newt Gingrich wanted me to pass along his thanks for getting the gas prices down so low, which was a campaign promise he made in 2012.

Best wishes for continued success,

Former Governor Mitt Romney

Collaboration proves to be successful

The strident bent of a small group in Congress that is holding that body and our Country back from governance is at odds with what has been most successful over time. Governing in a democracy is hinged on the art and execution of compromise and collaboration. Neither political party has all of the answers and some within those parties are not even asking the right questions. So, if you are unwilling to collaborate, you will not know where your opinions may be off base. In short, if you are not there to govern, then why are you there?

There are two recent examples of very successful presidencies that are due to collaboration and compromise, one a Democrat and one a Republican. Both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan have been deemed by their parties and others to have had good presidencies. Yes, they had their faults and made mistakes, but they also had some similarities. The Bureau of Labor statistics show under Clinton’s tutelage, more jobs were created than under any other president, even more than under FDR. The BLS statistics show that under Reagan, more jobs were created than under any other Republican president and he ranks in the top three behind the two men noted above.

It does not stop there. Clinton left the White House with a balanced budget which he worked with Congress to achieve over the last few years of his presidency. Reagan also was tireless in his efforts to have a balanced budget, actually raising taxes a number of times after his too deep tax cut early in his presidency. It should be noted that per an economic advisor to both, David Smick, who wrote “The World is Curved,” both presidents were very big on free trade and trade agreements.

Yet, both men were huge collaborators with Congress. In fact, Reagan was best friends with Democrat Speaker of the House Tip O’Neill as put forth in the book “Tip and the Gipper,” by Chris Matthews, who was on O’Neill’s staff. Reagan and O’Neill disagreed a lot, but both loved their country, so they found common ground and passed legislation. Clinton was not best friends with the two speakers from the opposing party, Newt Gingrich and Dennis Hastert, but he worked with them and fellow Democrat speaker Tom Foley to get things done, including the efforts to get us out of a deficit position and sign key trade agreements.

Recognizing that presidents get too much credit and blame for the economy, they do provide tailwinds or headwinds. So, it should not be ironic that two presidencies where the first and third most jobs were created were under collaborative presidents. Moving forward to today’s time, our current president has also seen success on these fronts with 67 consecutive months of job growth and halving the unemployment rate which is now at 5.1%. When done, his job numbers will rank pretty good among all presidents.

Yet, so much more could have been done if he and Congress worked together more. The opposing party has set out not to collaborate with the president and is on record as such. This president could have done a much better job of reaching out to this Congress, in spite of the negative partisanship. A good example is we have let an ideal time pass (with low interest rates) for investing more in improving and shoring up our outdated infrastructure. Outside of the Stimulus Act which provided funds to infrastructure projects, we have kicked the can down the road. And, these investments are known job creators.

So, as we see the machinations of a small number of folks who want the gears to come to a grinding halt, we need to remember how we got here. Government, of course, could be more efficient, yet it does play a huge role in our economy, safety and well-being. Collaboration and compromise are the keys. Let’s focus on getting things done.

 

A few paraphrased quotes for fun

Politicians, pundits and so-called experts say the darnedest things. And, they tend to forget that they have been recorded. The sad truth is some do not care, as they have “evolved their opinion” or “changed their mind.” Nonetheless, these quotes provide nice vignettes into the absurd world of our leaders and so-called thought leaders. It is a reminder that every thing you see and hear should be taken with a grain of salt.

– In 2008, both current Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Leader Mitch McConnell said these statements on camera. “Climate change is real and man-influenced and we need to do something about it.”

– Roughly in 2007, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and then current Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi did a television commercial together. Newt said “I was wrong about global warming. It is a problem and both Nancy and I agree we need to do something about it.”

– In 2014, both Boehner and McConnell said roughly “The science is not clear on climate change.”

– In his 2012 Presidential election run, Gingrich said, “I was wrong to say I was wrong about climate change.”

– Last month, Presidential candidate Rick Santorum in response to a question about Pope Francis’ paper on the Catholic Church’s concern over doing something about climate change, “We need to leave this to the scientists.” The Pope not only is supporting what governing scientific bodies are saying, but he also has a Masters in Chemistry, so technically he has some science qualifications.

– A public relations person who is well-compensated by the fossil fuel industry portrays himself as a scientific expert and argues on the split screen shots with scientists on talk shows. In the documentary movie “Merchants of Doubt,” he made fun of scientists saying they were “boring” and took pride in selling a story of climate change being a hoax. These scientists have spent a life studying the problem, but sometimes find it hard to articulate a complex argument into sound bites. When he was asked by Glenn Beck if he was an independent, unbiased expert, he lied and said he was.

– Former Congressman Bob Inglis of South Carolina, who was a climate change skeptic, traveled to Antarctica to see for himself. He came away convinced that the science was real and climate change is the problem as advertised. On the floor of Congress, he made a speech about his findings and that we need to do something about it. He was trounced in the next election by a fossil-fuel backed candidate. He now travels around telling his story as a Republican supporting the need to act on climate change and faces uphill battles everywhere he goes.

Man-influenced climate change is here and is causing problems around the world from Ecuador to Bangladesh to the Cartaret Islands to Miami to the Everglades to Norfolk to Texas to California. The drought areas will become worse and they are. Forest fires will become worse and they are. Sea-level rise will encroach into low-lying areas and it is. Hurricanes will hit shore from an elevated water level and be worse like Hurricane Sandy. And, chemicals in the ground will heat up like a crock pot.

The world can ill-afford a President or politicians to not recognize climate change for the problem it is. Please ask questions of politicians why they believe the way they do and what framed their opinion.

Two must read health care articles

Two articles written by very different sources should be required reading, as they ring further alarm bells that we must heed here in the US. The first was written by Former Speaker of the House and Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich urging Congress to double the budget to fund the National Institutes of Health. A link to a summary of the article follows: http://medcitynews.com/2015/04/newt-gingrich-urging-gop-congress-double-nih-funding/comment-page-1/.

The second was written by Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post entitled “Why pregnant women in Mississippi keep dying.” A link to the article follows: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/24/why-pregnant-women-in-mississippi-keep-dying/.

The Gingrich article addresses an issue that is facing all humans on earth. We are facing new strains of anti-bacterial resistant illnesses that are proving very elusive and adaptive. This has always been the case, but we have had the ability to create new anti-bacterial drugs. Yet, with are prevalent use of these drugs in humans and livestock, we are finding a more uphill climb. And, it is not just anti-bacterial drugs that need creating. Pandemic illnesses like Ebola or bird flus place our population at risk and funding is needed to create vaccines and sera.

The key is pharmaceutical companies are investing in more recurring drugs that are more profitable and investing less in cures for rarer illnesses or something that can fix a problem with one prescription dose. So, this a great example where government funding in NIH must play a huge role. They must invest in research that may not have the same kind of Return on Investment that a recurring drug might have. Gingrich is dead on accurate to raise this issue as a major concern and it should be heeded. The alternative is not a judicious path to follow.

The Paquette articles focuses its title on Mississippi, but that is a metaphor for a national problem. The US is now the only developed nation where the rate of pregnant mother deaths is increasing. In 1987 only 7.2 pregnant women were dying per 100,000 births. That rate has more than doubled in 2013 to 18.5 deaths per 100,000 births. Our maternal death rate in childbirth is 3x the rate in Saudi Arabia and 2x the rate in the UK.

In Mississippi, it is far worse with 54.7 black mothers dying in childbirth out of 100,000 births and 29.3 white mothers dying per 100,000. There a number of reasons cited, but one of the key reasons is that Mississippi has not expanded Medicaid and have over 107,000 people who do not have access to healthcare coverage. Note, other reasons are cited, but not having health care coverage limits access to preventive visits that expectant mothers with care get.

As many know, I have been a broken record for the need to continue and improve the Affordable Care Act, which is working pretty well by a number of studies and has dampened cost increases with the Congressional Budget Office lowering health care projections three times due in part to the ACA. But, we need to finish the job in about twenty states who are seeing the worst child and mother health results that have tended to not expand Medicaid to cover a key tranche of people under the ACA. I have said before that not expanding Medicaid is actually harmful to people and this is more evidence of that assertion.

Please read these articles and, if you concur these are problems worth fighting, reach out to your state legislators and US representatives and senators. Ask them to support more NIH funding at the national level and support the continuation of the ACA as the majority of Americans wish to happen. Ask the states who have not expanded Medicaid to do so as they are hurting people, rural hospitals to help people and their own economies in not so doing. These issues are that important.

Tuesday’s gone with the wind – a few odds and ends for this Tuesday

As a tribute to the great southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, I will use a chorus line of one of my favorite songs of theirs, to highlight a few odds and ends this Tuesday – “Tuesday’s Gone.” If you don’t know the song, give it a listen. You may also like “Call Me the Breeze” and “Simple Man” as well by the band. But, before Tuesday’s gone with the wind, here you go.

Economic recovery continues, but the recovery is continually challenged by people not spending. Wal-Mart announced a 5th consecutive quarter of negative same store results, year over year. They cite dampened wages as the culprit. When you have a heavy sales economy, people need to make a decent wage rate or they do what every else does, spend less. In this ongoing debate about minimum wage increase, this is a key outcome by not getting more money into people’s hands. By the way, you can trace the desperate nature of the retailer, car dealer or college, etc  in direct proportion to their eagerness to sell you something. I have had “final offers” made to me over and over again – but you said it was final three times ago.

Moral Monday’s in North Carolina have started up again, but the issues remain the same. They did help get more notice on the poor teacher pay plight which came to a head last year by limits and changes made by our conservative General Assembly. They have promised to do something this session and they need to or opportunity will be lost. The other issues remain – expand Medicaid to those in need, repeal the voter restrictive Voter ID Law which has been ruled unconstitutional in four other states and is on trial right now here, eliminate the severity of the unemployment benefit cuts which are highly punitive, and avoid fracking in our state. I attended my second Moral Monday yesterday and witnessed a diverse group of a couple of thousands people including doctors, teachers, professors, ministers and students. Their voice needs to be heard and heeded.

Failing to remember history, even recent history, can blind your reasoning, especially when people are adamantly against something they were for a few years ago. Former Senator Jim DeMint is adamantly against Obamacare, which is strange because it was patterned after Romneycare which he strongly advocated in writing, TV appearances and campaign speeches for Romney, as something we should do for the whole country. He particularly liked the mandate, as it shows personal responsibility, which he hates today. Newt Gingrich went on TV with Nancy Pelosi to show a united front that global warming was real and man-influenced and we need to do something about it. Newt noted he was wrong before to say it was a hoax. This change was in 2006. Then he ran for President in 2012 and he said he was wrong to say he was wrong. In this cases, two wrongs do not make a right. The make a wrong a wrong.

Finally, our friend Karl Rove won’t stop making a scandal out of nothing. This time Hillary Clinton is the target. Instead, why don’t we talk about a real scandal and ask Rove why his subordinate Scooter Libby went to jail. The greater question is why did not Rove who admitted later that he knew the same information that Libby did. Libby outed a CIA operative (Valerie Plame) in the press to discredit her husband who was a former Middle East ambassador that took issue with the Bush White House misusing his information inappropriately as evidence of Weapons of Mass Destruction as a reason to invade Iraq. The ambassador’s report said for the trail he looked into, there was no evidence, yet the White House said he did find something. Please feel free to Google various combinations of Karl Rove, Scooter Libby and Valerie Plame. My problem with this, is over 4,000 US soldiers (and countless civilians) died because of making up the WMD reason on false or unverified intelligence. That is a scandal.

Speaking of trails, happy trails to you on this Tuesday. Have a great week. I would love to hear your feedback.