Wearing jeans and passing out ball caps doesn’t make you a common man

The two leading candidates for the Republican nomination like to hob knob with the common folk. To show they are one of them, Senator Ted Cruz is wearing jeans and shirt with no tie. Donald Trump likes to wear his ball cap and hand them out as souvenirs. Yet, there is a big snag in their efforts.

Both Cruz and Trump have put forth tax proposals that have significant tax cuts for the wealthy. And, to make matters worse, both tax plans would materially increase the deficit to the extent there are not enough spending cuts to reduce the deficit, per former Republican Senator Alan Simpson.

While the tax cut for the rich is vintage Republican fare, the fact that both proposals increase the deficit run counter to the Tea Party concerns over reducing the deficit and debt. In Cruz’ case, it is especially hypocritical as he personally shut down the government in October 2013 and we would have defaulted on our debt if it were not for ten female senators who told Cruz to get out of the pool. Cruz said he did not care as he wanted to prove a point about the deficit. Yet, his tax plan would materially increase the deficit.

I have often said any Tom, Dick or Harry can get elected saying they will cut taxes. But, we need better stewardship than that. We need to pay down our debt and spending cuts cannot do it alone. That was the conclusion reached by the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan.

One thing is for sure. Neither Cruz or Trump can claim common status by doing exactly what the Republican establishment tends to do – favor the wealthy. That is not quite the revolution their fans are likely hoping for. Plus, being poor stewards with our debt strikes me as salesmanship and not governance.


Memo to that angry base

With the popularity of a couple of renegade presidential candidates, there is a consensus that an angry base is looking for a different path forward. I have asserted for several years now, that over half of the Republican Party voters have been voting against their economic interests and have no idea they are doing so. There is now an angry base of party members who feel they have been lied to.

Yet, what this angry base does not realize is they have been lied to by the leaders of their movement, as well. And, they still are being misled by candidates and pundits who want to speak to their insecurities. Here are a few of these lies:

  • The economy is not doing well. Actually, it is and has been doing pretty well for some time, with over 70 consecutive months of job growth and only 5% unemployment. Of course, there is room for improvement, but it is percolating along at a nice clip and 2016 is expected to be even better.
  • Climate change is a hoax or is not really influenced by humans. The data is pretty overwhelming that it is real and man-influenced and a well paid public relations campaign has been used by the fossil fuel industry to fuel the hoax and now non-man-influenced agenda. 97% of scientists and 195 countries are a lot to argue with.
  • The renewable energy industry is still in its infancy, is more costly and will cost jobs. Actually the renewable energy industry is doing quite well and jobs are growing at a double-digit rate, as production costs are close to on par with fossil fuel energy. And, when other costs are factored in, renewable energy is actually less.
  • A minimum wage increase will cost jobs. True, but it masks the whole impact, as studies have shown the economic benefit exceeds small job losses and about 30 states and some cities have raised the minimum  wage above the Federal minimum, including GOP led states. They must believe it is a good thing for workers and their economy.
  • Welfare benefits are driving the deficit. Actually the biggest budget items are defense spending and Social Security and Medicare to which we all contribute. If we want to measurably cut the budget, these are the places we need to look. I would do deeper cuts on defense, as we are building things our military does not need. Also, we need to be mindful of tax plans that materially increase the deficit as put forth by some leading GOP candidates.
  • All immigration is bad. Immigration actually helps the economy through more purchasing power and attracting talent. Businesses are crying out on attracting and retaining talented foreigners. Plus, if we don’t constructively address illegal immigration as proposed by our President, then our economy would be impacted, especially in industries that exploit illegal immigrants to lower cost. Plus, families would be harmed.
  • We are in grave danger as a country. We must be vigilant against terrorism, but we should not run scared and we should not give up our ideals and freedoms. If we do so, then the terrorists have already won. We must be compassionate and do our share of bringing in refugees. Right now, we appear small by some of our narrow-mindedness.
  • The President is some variation of a non-citizen by birth, Muslim, Nazi or Anti-Christ. If you believe this malarkey, then this post has no chance of convincing you otherwise. Yet, you may want to ask candidates why they perpetuate this propaganda. And, it is more than OK if he were a Muslim.

Our country is doing much better than has been portrayed by some candidates. Yes, we have problems around increasing poverty, declining middle class and growing racial tensions that we need to address, but we need to collectively solve these issues. We do not solve them by blaming others for the problems. They are our problems to solve as we allowed them to be created over time. We also don’t solve real problems by ignoring them or saying they do not exist. Our planet and country can ill-afford to have a President turn his or her blind eye to the world on our looming climate change and global water crisis. The next ten years are critical.

We need more honest and reasonable debate on our issues. We also need reasonably minded folks to discuss these issues. Name calling and demonizing does not constitute reasonable debate. Let’s start by demanding civility from each other, but especially our candidates. It is more than OK to disagree, but let’s use real information and not campaign rhetoric, which can be over-embellished.



Simpson-Bowles still gets the conversation started

In honor of November 8 being Deficit Day, meaning our US revenue for the year has run out in covering our expenses, I think it is important to revisit some of the saner voices on these issues. Former Republican Senator Alan Simpson who partnered with former Chief of Staff (for Bill Clinton) Erskine Bowles to lead a committee to address the deficit, has penned an interesting editorial. In essence, he is critical of the various tax plans submitted by GOP candidates for president all of which would materially increase the deficit. He notes they are so poorly conceived, that there are not enough legitimate cuts to overcome the loss of revenue.

Simpson knows of what he speaks. The Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan combined strategic spending cuts with revenue increases to reduce the deficit. It was well conceived, but not perfect, as nothing is. People found faults with elements of it, which is a reason it did not move forward. Yet, it was a terrific conversation starter. It was something to work with and modify, as needed. And, it spoke to the need to increase revenue along with spending cuts.

One of the issues conservative folks have with the plan is the revenue increases, but let me state three truisms, two of which are universal, and one that applies to the United States.

  • Of course, people don’t want to pay higher taxes, but they do realize a need to pay for expenses.
  • Any politician can get elected saying they will reduce taxes. But, that promise should not be confused with good stewardship.
  • Per the Paris based Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US is one of the least taxed countries of 33 countries who have participated in analyses dating back over forty years. In fact, the US is well beneath the median tax rate of the recurring OECD surveys.

The deficit is important and we need to be smart with what we cut and actually increase spending in some areas. Yet, we must garner more revenue or we will never get there. There is a reason President George W. Bush fired his Treasury secretary as he argued against the Bush tax cuts. It should be noted the budget was balanced by President Clinton the last several years of his presidency, which was handed over to Bush.

While President Obama has done many good things, he is an imperfect president, like they all are. One of my biggest criticisms of the president is not embracing the Simpson-Bowles Deficit Reduction Plan and say let’s start with this. It would have been a great conversation starter and still could be.


The Beast

In an interview last week, one of the infamous Koch Brothers was lamenting the demise of civil discourse in the Republican Party. For those who do not follow politics, the Koch Brothers have used their vast fortunes made primarily from fossil fuel industries to advance conservative ideas. They have done this by funding candidates directly and through Americans for Prosperity, its action committee.

Charles Koch noted that party has disintegrated into one where false bravado, accusations and blame have replaced discussion over the relative merits of ideas. As an Independent voter, who has been both a Democrat and Republican, I concur with his assessment. The big problem with his concerns is he and his brother helped create and feed The Beast that is dragging down the party. They funded and kept alive the efforts of the Tea Party. Absent their significant help, The Beast would not have flourished like it has today.

Through the stubbornness of The Beast, there is a “my-way or the highway” attitude which is very unhealthy for the party. Yet, my main concern is the lack of collaboration is harmful to our country and planet. It would be one thing if the Tea Party was filled with an abundance of good workable ideas, yet that is not the case. I have written before that the GOP is on the wrong side of more issues than not these days and the Tea Party has an even more extreme position. This is largely due to limiting news sources and rhetoric to a very biased and spin-doctored lens, where successes outside of this view are not reported at all or painted poorly.

And, to get their way, The Beast is willing to have everything come to a screeching halt. In their view, all government is bad, so therefore the government should not do anything. That is inane as there are roles for government to play that these same people benefit from. Yes, it could be more efficient and yes, we need to guard against bureaucracy, but that is where oversight comes in. And, our country has actually been much better than others about government co-investing with the private sector to do big things that the private sector cannot do alone or whose shareholders would not allow.

The Beast has every right to raise issues and concerns offering reasonable suggestions backed by data. We do not need The Beast shouting at everyone else while beating on their chest. That serves little purpose and is a poor substitute for effective discourse. So, in this instance, I agree with Charles Koch. Yet, he helped make this mess, so he should use his money to fix it, as our country is less served by false bravado.

Obamacare continues to show success and irony

As reported by Kent Hoover of The Business Journal, an April 2014 Gallup Poll indicates the rate of those without healthcare insurance has now fallen to 13.4%. The Gallup Poll notes this is the lowest rate since 2008, when they first started tracking the issue. Many know that the public exchanges have signed up over 8 million consumers, but what many don’t know, including some reporters, is the expansion of Medicaid has added over 3 million covered individuals. Plus, what very few know, is that the pre-2014 Obamacare changes included a provision to allow parents to continue their adult children until age 26, irrespective of whether they are attending college. This pre-2014 change added 3 million people.

When you tally all of those numbers together, you get over 14 million additional covered individuals. There has been a lot of naysaying about the complex and imperfect law, fueled in a huge way by the poor rollout of the exchanges. But, that ship was righted and now people have signed up and are using the coverage. The naysayers have also noted the early sign-ups were older, higher costing medical consumers. Yet, the late push to get folks enrolled has improved the number of younger folks, to the extent that most insurers are feeling better about their risk profile. It still needs to be measured on a case by case basis, but this is encouraging. Also, the Congressional Budget Office is so enthralled with the better demographics, they reduced their cost estimates by $104 Billion over the next 10 years.

But, two final articles should be noted. First, about two weeks ago, Benefits Pro and Bloomberg News both reported that bond investors like Invesco, Credit Suisse, and Charles Schwab are looking favorably at the dampening effect on medical inflation that Obamacare is doing which is improving the outlook on US Treasury bonds. Second, today a study out of Massachusetts where Romneycare went into place several years ago, has indicated that mortality experience has improved for those who have been insured. In other words, the doctors, who analyzed the data, said it shows that if you have healthcare coverage, you will live longer, on average. Obamacare was patterned after Romneycare, so this is very telling.

On the flip side, there are still 24 states who need to complete the Obamacare package by expanding Medicaid. These states rank consistently in the bottom third of states on the quality of healthcare for its population by The Commonwealth Fund, who tracks healthcare data by state. They have shown, as has RAND Corporation and the Economic Policy Institute, that expanding Medicaid will help millions more people, help the rural hospitals in those states who are struggling and help the economies in the states.

As a retired benefits consultant, former actuary and former Director of Compensation and Benefits for a Fortune 500 company, I know Obamacare is not perfect, but I also know that there has been a mountainous effort to discredit it with true and untrue statements about its shortcomings. We need to keep Obamacare and embrace the changes it has made both before 2014 and in this year. We should also look to find ways to improve it. To replace it would be ill-advised and hurt many. Expanding Medicaid in those remaining 24 states would be the first change that would help.

And, the folks who are shouting the loudest should do some homework and read recent history that shows the Tea Party leadership strongly supported Romneycare for the whole country, including the mandate requiring insurance, before Obamacare was patterned after it and Mitt Romney ran for president. Once that occurred, Romneycare’s most strident supporter and de facto Tea Party leader, Senator Jim DeMint, said both Romneycare and Obamacare are unconstitutional. Isn’t it ironic that the idea the Tea Party favored then and now hate, actually is showing success? For people who do not believe this change in posture, they should Google “Jim DeMint and Romneycare” and read as much as they care to.



A Republican Governor’s Comments a Year Later

With the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) meeting the past couple of days, I was reminded of the comments made by Republican Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s last year at a GOP planning conference. His comments were telling as he said for the Republican Party to stay relevant that “we have to stop being the stupid party.” As an Independent voter, who left the Republican Party in 2006 principally for this reason, I have written several posts that our country needs a more reasonable, collaborative Republican Party and not what it has become.

Looking back a year later, while there have been some glimmers of hope, for the most part the Republican Party has doubled down on stupid, rather than change with the prevailing winds. This is unfortunate and will actually cause the GOP to fall further behind in the America’s Cup race, as the changing demographics and failure to recognize the real issues of the day, will provide strong headwinds. My belief is supported by looking at the major issues of the day, recognizing that the Republican Party is on the wrong side of almost every major issue and many don’t even realize it or choose not to recognize it.

Eco-energy issues

The GOP continues to listen to the brainwashing of its major funder, the fossil fuel industry, to discredit what the rest of the world is addressing and 97% of scientists acknowledge – climate change is real and is man-influenced and we need to do something about it. This issue coupled by a blind jingoistic effort that fracking for natural gas is perfectly safe has placed our country in peril that we are only just beginning to recognize. Even the President has been blinded by the energy independence that fracking has helped cause, yet we are selling our future for now. We must address climate change in an even more aggressive manner than we are doing and yesterday’s House of Representatives decision to not support the President’s climate change bill is prima facie evidence of the fossil fuel clout in the GOP.

Plus, we cannot be so adamantly against regulations for their own sake. Yes, regulations and bureaucracy can be overbearing, but the absence of regulations would permit human nature to act at its worst. The coal ash spill by one of best utilities in the country in Duke Energy on top of the chemical spill in West Virginia are lightning rods, just as the BP Gulf oil spill and the TVA coal ash spill were a few years ago. Please remember, fossil fuel retrieval is inherently an unsafe process, but even if it were safe, it is only as good as its worst operator. George Mitchell, the father of shale fracking, acknowledged unsafe practices by wildcatters in the fracking industry before he passed away recently.

Individual rights issues

The GOP is on the wrong side of the LGBT issues and it is beginning to backfire on them. By embracing the evangelicals for votes, the decision to trample on the rights of our LGBT citizens and be adamantly against allowing marriage of same-sex partners places them on the wrong side of history. We are seeing some discriminatory state laws get overturned in court, as well as seeing the pressure placed on Governor Jan Brewer to veto the recent bill in Arizona. Coupling this with the Voter Laws passed in several states like my own in North Carolina, we are seeing these unconstitutional, Jim Crow-like laws get overturned in the court, as well. My GOP friends say these are the actions of “activist judges,” but these actions are not conducive to being a big-tent party and they were told these laws were unconstitutional before they were passed.

Immigration issues

The Republican stance on immigrations stymies me. The demographics are set dead against you, and yet you won’t budge on your uncompromising position. This stance, by itself, will cause the demise of the Republican Party. Yet, the GOP won’t act. I recognize this issue is complex, but at its heart it is not. Our industries need the imported talent that hard working immigrants bring. Plus, ideas and innovation come from all sources and there is a huge body of evidence that people who come to our country with nothing, can contribute greatly when given opportunity.

Gun issues

The acquiescence to the NRA on gun issues is absolutely amazing to me. Even responsible gun owners know the NRA does not represent what they used to and see them as a marketing engine for the gun industry. We have a multi-faceted gun violence problem in this country that dwarfs that of other civilized countries. It is an issue that happens everyday, but only gets highlighted when mass shootings occur. And, responsible people want changes to gun laws around background checks and waiting periods. Yet, the gun lobby is so strong on both parties, but in particular, the GOP that reasonable laws cannot be made. As noted before, it is much more than a gun issue, but for people to say it is not a gun issue at all is just plain wrong. The GOP is on the wrong side of this issue and our country needs to change.

Poverty Issues

We are finally talking about our poverty problem in this country. Yet, we are looking for panaceas to a complex problem. The GOP is saying the “War on Poverty” failed but that is too simplistic a statement and is not correct. Some parts were hugely successful, some were mildly successful and others not successful at all. We can also trace the divergence in “haves” and “have-nots”  to what George H.W. Bush called “Voodoo” economics, but Ronald Reagan called “Trickle Down Economics.” Several studies have noted the failure of this model, which basically made rich people richer through tax cuts, but it did not flow down to others. It was called the “Horse and Sparrow” theory a 100 years ago, where you feed the horse and the sparrows would eat what passed through the horse. That is as good an explanation of why this concept does not work as any.

We need to look at multiple levers – the minimum wage, the earned income tax credit, and job creation. With our infrastructure where it is, the best jobs program in the country would be to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure. Why we are not doing this with interest rates so low, the problems so many, is beyond me. Yet, we are at a stalemate. I should add Obamacare, which is largely a GOP idea, will actually help in addressing poverty issues, as people with health care coverage will be healthier and more secure and will spend more in the economy. The GOP’s obstinance on this issue should backfire on them, as Obamacare continues to show more success in this phase building off earlier phases’ successes.

Deficits and Debt issues

The one set of issues where the GOP has a rightful claim on their importance is the deficit and debt issues. Yet, because of the stance of the Tea Party and demagogues like Grover Norquist, they actually tie one arm behind our backs as a solution. Simpson-Bowles got it right with their deficit reduction plan recommending spending cuts and revenue increases and it should have been embraced as a working document. I fault the GOP and President on not moving forward with Simpson-Bowles.

The premise of the Tea Party is we are “taxed enough already,” which may be a nice emotional sentiment, but is actually untrue from a financial standpoint. Per the well-respected, Paris based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US stands at 32nd out of 34 countries in the measure of Taxes per GDP. Our ratio is almost 10% below the median ratio for the 34 countries. And, as I like to add, George W. Bush’s Treasury Secretary Paul O’Neill was fired because he openly disagreed with the famous Bush Tax Cuts. So, as recommended by Simpson-Bowles, we need spending cuts and tax increases to address our deficit and debt issues.

I could go on, but I want to paint a picture that we need the GOP to become more relevant. Right now, they are not a party of ideas. They are not a party of collaboration. We need them to recognize that America needs fiscally conservative voices at the table to make sure we are spending our money wisely. What we don’t need is uncollaborative people who name-call, govern by anecdote, invent issues, and do their best to drive people away. GOP, it is your ship to sail. Please keep it on course and not drift away. And, heed Governor Jindal’s admonition.

A fictional story about an Arizona Retailer

I am so glad Governor Jan Brewer was forced to veto the bill that would have permitted me to discriminate against people who do not share my religious beliefs. As a shopkeeper, I have always tried to serve my customers well. I learned that from my mom and dad when I took over the business when they retired.

You see, I was in a quandary as I try to live every day by the Golden Rule. You know the one where you try to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I always simplify it for my kids and say “treat others like you want to be treated.” Sometimes you have to break it down for people to understand. And, I try to follow my minister’s preaching on every issue asking “What Would Jesus Do?” I even wear one of those WWJD bracelets and get asked often about it.

I was troubled by the bill passed by our Arizona legislature. I did not like the power they were granting me as it runs counter to what I believe – treat others like you want to be treated. Jesus even said to treat “the least of us” as if they were Me.  Now that Governor Brewer responded to pressure from local, regional, national and global businesses as well as our two US Senators McCain and Flake, I can rest easy and serve all people willing to do business with me.

I now don’t have to discriminate and can serve bigots even though they do not have the same religious beliefs that I have. Even bigots need to be treated like we want to be treated. That is what Jesus would want.

Two Republicans who need to be heeded by the GOP

Two Republicans have stood out in my mind as people who represent more than what the Grand Old Party has become – Senator Susan Collins of Maine and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey. They stand out as they both have reputations of being bipartisan in their thoughts and deeds and for recognizing one overarching truth – they represent all of their constituents. Of course, they have a more conservative bent, but being a Republican should not overshadow that they represent folks from Maine and New Jersey. Yet, while they would both be great Presidential/ Vice Presidential candidates, the sad truth is they get demonized in their own party for their actions, beliefs and behaviors.

Why is this so? Quite simply, they are not strident enough in their conservative beliefs. Those who are on the extreme side of their party do not recognize Collins and Christie’s mainstream virtues for what they are. The extreme side views them as weak and giving in. In a nutshell, that is what is wrong with the GOP as people who would govern with a conscious and work collaboratively with others are demonized. Christie continues to be vilified for not only working with the President, but thanking him for his help for New Jersey citizens after Hurricane Sandy. He was also viewed poorly for telling Mitt Romney he did not have time for a photo shoot as he was working to help people who lost everything. His vintage Christie comment was, unless the candidate is going to help me help these people, tell Romney not to waste my time.

Collins was the leader behind the women senators who helped make the debt ceiling/ government shutdown deal to reopen the government and let America pay its bills. They worked with a bipartisan group of senators to make it happen. Attached is a link to a post I wrote a few weeks ago.


She also will be submitting a bill in the Senate which will received bipartisan support to help end discrimination toward gays in the workplace. It should have over 60 senators vote in its favor, over the objections of the Heritage Foundation’s political activist arm. When you read her bio on her website, she uses the word bipartisan often. What I also like about her is she shows up and goes to work. In July of last year, she registered her 5,000th straight roll call vote, never having missed one while in the Senate.

Let me state a few obvious things from this Independent, former Republican’s view. Note, I am former Democrat, as well, describing myself as fiscally conservative and socially progressive. The GOP will not climb out of its abyss “tripling down” on extreme conservatism. The party double downed after last year’s election, which was a huge mistake. By limiting their sources of information and data to those who are telling them what they want to hear, the party is not understanding the problems, addressing the demographic changes or listening to what mainstream America is saying. For example, there was genuine surprise by conservative news sources that Romney lost, even though the survey data said he would.

I have written before how the last slate of GOP Presidential candidates was very weak. If the party puts up any of the following candidates – Senator Ted Cruz, Senator Rand Paul, former Governor Sarah Palin, Senator Marco Rubio, Congressman Paul Ryan in 2016 – they will likely get trounced in the general election. Rubio showed some hopeful signs when he was on the bipartisan immigration group of senators, but now he has kowtowed to the strident view in his own party and is against the Senate plan he helped pass. There are some flip-flops that are more noteworthy than others and being against something you helped pass is akin to Romney being against his previous version of Obamacare that is working well in Massachusetts.

The better GOP candidates would be Christie or Collins, or if the GOP leadership could woo former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels away from Purdue University, he would also be an excellent choice. Daniels chose not to run in 2012, my guess is he knew Obama would win. The key to all of them is they are fiscal conservatives, yet they also represent all constituents. The GOP needs to move back toward the center. The business community and funders are giving the party strong signals to get more collaborative and govern. The funders want a ROI on their investment. That is the key reason the Koch Brothers fund the Tea Party around the country. Yet, if that party cannot deliver an ROI to the Koch’s, they will stop funding it and move to another set of representation who can. They have already distanced themselves some, when the defunding Obamacare strategy was not working.

So, GOP please do not triple down on extreme conservatism. Bring the party back to being a reasonable voice at the table. America needs reasonable voices from both sides. Stop standing against everything and stand for something. Starting with Collins and Christie would be a very good move.

Crisis averted, but we cannot get complacent and must act

Thank goodness more rational heads prevailed this past week and we listened to what our global financial partners were telling us. I was not counting the chickens until they were all hatched. Here are few remarks from around the globe that we need to remind folks of courtesy of NBC News online.

International Monetary Fund managing director Christine Lagarde welcomed the deal but said the shaky American economy needs more stable long-term finances. The deal only permits the Treasury to borrow normally through February 7 and fund the government through January 15.

After the deal was approved and signed, the Tokyo stock market, the region’s heavyweight, gained as much as 1.1 percent Thursday. Markets in South Korea, Australia and Southeast Asia also gained. Earlier, China’s official Xinhua News Agency had accused Washington of jeopardizing other countries’ dollar-denominated assets. It called for “building a de-Americanized world,” though analysts say global financial markets have few alternatives to the dollar for trading and U.S. government debt for holding reserves.

In Israel, a key American ally in the Middle East, commentators said the fight hurt America’s overall image. “There is no doubt that damage was done here to the image of American economic stability,” Israel’s economic envoy to Washington, Eli Groner, told Israel’s Army Radio. “It’s not good for the financial markets, not in the United States and not around the world.”

The next time someone brings up that it would have been OK not to pay our bills, ask them if they truly understand what they are advocating with folks around the world saying the above. And, just to illustrate this point further, Brazil had some major building initiatives around their growth, Olympics, etc. and they looked to financing from China, Dubai and other non-American sources, so don’t think the world does not notice our dysfunction. With that said, we do need to deal with our deficit (and debt issues) and hopefully the December 13 report by the bi-partisan committee will be fruitful.

In May, 2012, I wrote the following post regarding the Tea Party’s efforts. While I support their push for dealing with the deficit, they are not being very good stewards with the faith some have entrusted in them. In addition to their uncompromising positions and trust in dubious sources of information and history, they are also taking a key lever off the table that we must use to get our deficit under control. In addition to reducing spending, we must increase revenue. It is not an either or issue – it is both as recommended by the Simpson-Bowles (or Bowles-Simpson) Deficit Reduction Committee.


So, Congressional leaders, you have until December 13 to come up with a plan. That plan cannot include holding the debt ceiling hostage or shutting down the government. Please remember, our stability is a rock on which the global economy is based. Please heed the words by the Chinese official above. If we can no longer be that rock, the world will find another one. Innovation is portable as is money. People are investing and will invest elsewhere if we don’t get our act together.

The GOP has screwed the pooch

If people are horrified by the verbiage of this headline, please know that it is a term used by test pilots in the Air Force and was used heavily during the book and movie called “The Right Stuff.” The term “screwed the pooch” is a term given when a test pilot pushed his aircraft too far and the mistake would cause the loss of the aircraft or, worse the loss of his or her life. The erroneous test pilot was said to have “screwed the pooch.” Unfortunately, these brave men and now women, often paid dearly for their test pilot efforts, which was a recurring theme in the movie.

I use the term to portray what the GOP has been doing to itself over the past few years culminating in the current state of affairs where a few are holding the country and their own party hostage with demands that are so strident, others in their party are balking. In fact, the GOP leadership is close to its wits end as they are being pushed by the US Chamber of Commerce, business leaders and conservative columnists and papers to cease the charade and come to the table. They have screwed the pooch.

I was somewhat hesitant to use this term as it was used with brave and daring test pilots who were paid and loved to fly jets to their outer limits and beyond. They called it “pushing the envelope.” I find no bravery in the Tea Party as I see a stubbornness that has arisen from a faulty data, misinformation and unlimited funds from a few key donors. These donors have heavy ties to the fossil fuel industry, so from my view and that of other independent voters, the donors are using the passion in Tea Party group for a cause that the group is unaware.

These donors want to perpetuate the fossil fuel profit making engine by any means possible. They want to dismantle environmental regulations and gain full access to dig, drill and exploit. Even as we speak, the GOP is considering the push for environmental restrictions being lifted as part of the debt ceiling and budget bill. Why would they do that at a time when the United Nations sanctioned International Climate Change Group scientists have just noted they are 95% sure global warming is man-influenced and the folks in China are having a hard time seeing the sun and breathing clean air is becoming a luxury.

The stubborness tracks to the position on Obamacare which is largely a GOP idea. The exchanges, in particular, are right out of a GOP playbook that wants more competition for insurance coverage in a state. And, one of the biggest Tea Party proponents lives in Texas, which is where the most uninsureds in America exist. They are dead last by having the highest tally of uninsureds. I get back to a simple question – why aren’t you in favor of Obamacare? And, why won’t you expand Medicaid, as well?

But, I guess one of the troubling aspects in the budget deal is the current proposal passed by the Senate has the GOP preferred sequestration restricted budget baked in. In other words, the GOP has garnered approval from the Senate on a major concession and that is to continue fairly capricious cuts. If the House voted for this Senate bill right now, it would pass with enough GOP Congressional representatives joining the Democrats. One GOP Congressman said if the vote was confidential, 150 GOP members would vote for it. That is almost 70% of the GOP representatives. What does that tell you?

Obama has made some concessions with this budget. He is not going to unwind his healthcare law. And, in spite of the overall like/ dislike of Obamacare, since the GOP disinformation campaign has been so effective, people don’t know what it is, including some representatives, senators and governors. Yet, if you ask about the features of Obamacare, people like the features in the majority. What has already been made effective – extending coverage to age 26 for adult children, elimination of lifetime limits, elimination of preexisting conditons on kids (the adult part is effective 1/1/14), limiting insurer profits on premiums, and improving senior drug coverage – are well received. The exhanges are a good idea and will let people have access to coverage.

I have written numerous letters to my GOP representative to stop siding with the Tea Party and start being a reasonable steward. The Tea Party has screwed the pooch and per conservative columnist David Brooks is on the downward side of their success.The GOP has screwed the pooch as well, but they still have time to remedy this and make a course correction. Let’s hope for our country they do. Speaker are you listening?