Posts Tagged ‘John Boehner’

Up in Arms

December 1, 2014

I got this email from Organizing for Action last week, but with the Thanksgiving holiday and everything else I didn’t get the chance to write about it until now.

Friend —

There are a lot of people on the other side up in arms right now about the President’s immigration plan, and I’m having trouble understanding why.

Either they don’t think the President should be allowed to take action to help fix our broken immigration system (just like several presidents from Kennedy to Reagan have in the past)…

Or they think that 500 days isn’t long enough to wait for John Boehner to hold a vote on the bipartisan reform bill the Senate passed.

Most Americans are tired of the excuses.

Stand up to the people who just want to drag their feet and block progress at all costs — add your name:

http://my.barackobama.com/Immigration-Reform

Thanks,

Jack

Jack Shapiro
National Issues Campaign Manager
Organizing for Action

As someone on the other side, perhaps I can explain why so many of us are up in arms against President Obama’s recent actions regarding immigration.

First, it is often said that our immigration system is broken, yet somehow no one ever explains how the system got broken. The simple truth is that our immigration system is broken because there a large number of  people in Washington DC who simply do not wish for our current immigration laws to be enforced. There are a number of motives involved and this is a bi-partisan issue. Suffice it to say that many members of this country’s political elite want to have effectively open borders while most ordinary Americans of both parties do not. The system is broken because those in charge of maintaining the system want it broken.

Aside from the immigration issue, many Americans are wary of unilateral executive action by the president without regard to the wishes of their representatives in Congress. Even Americans who might agree with the provisions of Obama’s orders dislike the manner in which he has enacted them. This idea that either Congress rubber stamps what ever the President demands or he will issue rules by decree seems more suited to the days of absolute monarchy or some third world dictatorship than to a free republic under the rule of the constitution. This by now famous sketch from Saturday Night Live neatly demonstrates the misgivings many Americans have over the Obama method of getting things done.

And it’s no good claiming that previous presidents have taken similar actions with executive orders on immigration. As David Frum pointed out in his article in the Atlantic,  these previous presidential executive orders were clarifications of existing legislation that affected relatively few people. They were not attempts at passing new laws from the Oval Office.

I have a parable in mind that perhaps will help Mr. Shapiro, and others, understand our point of view. Suppose I decided that I wanted a new car, perhaps something a bit sportier than what I now own. My wife, however, explains that the family finances are such that we cannot afford a new car and that anyway my current vehicle works perfectly fine for my needs. I then drive my car into the nearest telephone pole, totalling it. I go back to my wife and explain that since now my car is broken, I really need a new one. She responds that the finances are in worse shape than before from the expenses of the towers taking the car away and my medical bills so that I will have to walk or take a cab. I decide that if she wants to block progress and not take action, I will so I take executive action and go and buy a new car for myself. For this egregious violation of the Family Constitution, I then get impeached (divorced) or censured (sleep on the living room couch for the next year).

I suppose it is a bit late to divorce President Obama, besides being politically inadvisable, but maybe we could make him sleep on the couch for the rest of his term.

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Ignorance is Bliss

July 10, 2014

Two recent e-mails I have received prove this old saying true. First there is one from Moveon.org.

Dear MoveOn member,

If you thought House Republicans couldn’t get worse, I’ve got bad news. Speaker John Boehner is now threatening to sue President Obama because House Republicans are mad that President Obama is using his executive authority to get things done where Congress won’t act.1

Such a ridiculous lawsuit would be a wasteful and inappropriate use of taxpayer dollars for political purposes, and we’ve hatched a plan to fight back.

Our legal team is investigating options to hold Speaker Boehner accountable if he moves forward—from launching a lawsuit of our own, to filing a formal complaint in Congress, to other responses. And we are planning protests outside of Republicans’ district offices and other tactics that can break into the news. Together, we can help expose the lawsuit for the cynical political ploy that it is and generate press coverage that holds Republicans accountable as the November elections loom.

Because MoveOn is its members, we want to know what you think before we decide whether to proceed. Do you think we should move forward—or do you want us focused on other things? Click to let us know:

Yes, MoveOn should fight to hold Speaker Boehner and House Republicans accountable if they use taxpayer dollars to sue President Obama.

No, I’d prefer for MoveOn to focus on other things (and tell us which other things).

Thanks for all you do.

–Anna, Bobby, Matt, Amy, and the rest of the team

Checks and balances? What’s that. As it happens, I don’t think Speaker of the House Boehner should sue the president either. There are other options Congress can use to rein in an over bearing president. The House of Representatives, in particular, has the power of the purse. I think it would be better if John Boehner worked as hard as he could to get as many Republicans elected as possible. With a majority in both houses of Congress, they have a much better chance of stopping Obama. Suing him will only fire up the liberal base. I could say something similar about calling for impeachment. The Republicans have a good chance of winning big this year, but both of these tactics could ruin things.

I wish, though, that the people at Moveon.org, and elsewhere, would think very carefully about the statement that the President must act by executive authority because Congress won’t. What exactly do we have a Congress for? If the only legitimate role of Congress is to rubber stamp everything the president decrees,than why bother to have a Congress at all? Why not just make the President a dictator who we elect every four years? They seem to think we should have a system like the old Soviet Union or some banana republic in which there is a phony legislature that pretends to be passing the laws while the Leader is calling all the shots. Haven’t any of these people stopped to think that there may come a time when someone they thoroughly detest becomes president and enacts policies they oppose over the will of Congress, maybe we might even get another Republican as president? When that time comes, they may wish we still had the checks and balances they worked so hard to eviscerate.

The other e-mail is from Organizing for Action.

Friend —

Big news in the fight to raise the minimum wage:

In the last few months, four states have passed laws to raise the wage, and several cities and local governments are following suit.

That’s how we make progress, even if a minority in Congress is blocking it.

OFA’s petition to lawmakers already has nearly half a million signatures on it — yours belongs on it, too. Add your name to the petition today.

A higher minimum wage isn’t just good for workers, it’s the right idea for our economy.

More money in minimum wage earners’ pockets means more money to spend at area businesses.

That’s why governors and legislators on both sides of the aisle are working to raise the wage. Just since May, we’ve seen Maryland, Michigan, Hawaii, and Massachusetts pass higher state minimum wage laws.

This fight is also happening on the local level. Seattle, Philadelphia, and Richmond, California, have all taken steps forward to raise the wage for thousands of workers in their cities.

In Las Cruces, New Mexico, supporters delivered more than 6,000 petition signatures to put a minimum wage increase measure on the ballot this fall.

That’s grassroots energy, and it’s proof that when we make our voices heard, progress is possible — with or without Congress.

This petition is how we’re going to send a message that the other side can’t ignore. We’ve got hundreds of thousands of signatures.

Right now, it looks like your name is missing, but that’s alright.

You can add your voice today, and tell lawmakers it’s time to raise the minimum wage:

http://my.barackobama.com/Raise-the-Wage-Petition

Thanks,

Lindsay

Lindsay Siler
National Director of Issue Campaigns
Organizing for Action

Raising the minimum wage helps the economy because people have more money to spend in area businesses. There is something that doesn’t add up here. I have dealt some of the problems with raising the minimum wage before. Yes, the people who work at or slightly above minimum wage will have more money to spend at area businesses. But the increase in labor costs caused by the mandated increased in wages will mean that the area businesses will have a lower profit. You might think, “So what. The greedy capitalists shouldn’t be making such a large profit”. Remember that for a small business owner, that profit is their wage. That is what they are trying to live on. Even for a large corporation that profit is what they use to expand their business and pay put dividends to their stockholders. In order to maintain their profits in the face of rising labor costs, businesses, both small and large, will be forced to consider ways of cutting costs, making do with fewer employees, and increasing income, raising prices. In terms of purchasing power, many of those people who received a raise will eventually find themselves back where they were before.

It must be nice not to have to think things through, to just go with whatever feels good at the moment. You can support all sorts of foolish policies that may ultimately harm the people you intend to help, but if you never stop to consider the unintended consequences of such policies that  thought will never cross your mind. Ignorance is bliss.

 

John Boehner’s Snit

December 13, 2013
Official portrait of United States House Speak...

RINO? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

House Speaker John Boehner is not too happy with conservative groups that insist that he,well, actually govern as a conservative. He finally let the world know how he really felt the other day. I read about his remarks in various places but here is what the Hill had to say.

In a remarkable year-end press conference, Boehner repeatedly, and at times angrily, denounced and mocked the organizations that have dogged him throughout his Speakership, accusing them of “misleading their followers” while defending his own conservative credentials.

“I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be, and frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility,” Boehner said.

The Speaker didn’t cite any organizations by name, but he was clearly referring to a collection of Tea Party and conservative groups that have opposed nearly every significant piece of fiscal legislation he has presented to his members. They include Heritage Action, the political arm of the influential think tank, as well as the Tea Party-aligned FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity.

Boehner grew more animated as he recalled the government shutdown in October, blaming the activists who he said “pushed us into this fight to defund ObamaCare and shut down the government.”

The day before the government reopened, he said, “one of these groups stood up and said, well, we never really thought it would work.”

“Are you kidding me?!” Boehner asked loudly.

Boehner and his leadership team have privately seethed at groups like Heritage for months, but the groups’ decision to oppose the budget agreement in advance prompted the Speaker to denounce them in public. His venting follows that of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who, earlier this fall, called out the groups for launching primaries against him and his members.

The Speaker strongly defended the two-year budget agreement that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) negotiated with Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), saying that, while it is not everything Republicans want, it “takes giant steps in the right direction.”

“This budget bill gets us more deficit reduction than what we have under the Budget Control Act,” he said. “I came here to cut the size of government. That’s exactly what this bill does, and why conservatives wouldn’t vote for this, or [would] criticize the bill is beyond any recognition I could come up with.”

But the press conference turned to a broader defense of Boehner’s three-year tenure as Speaker.

“I’m as conservative as anybody around this place,” he said. “And all the things that we’ve done in the three years that I’ve been Speaker have not violated any conservative principle. Not once.”

Asked whether he wanted the conservative groups to “stand down,” Boehner scoffed. “I don’t care what they do,” he replied.

Conservative groups had fired back at Boehner’s initial denunciation on Wednesday, but they held back on Thursday.

 

I really like Mitch McConnell’s attitude. How dare these uppity peasants actually think they should have a choice in choosing their elected officials. They should support me no matter how many times I stab them in the back. Meanwhile, the Democrats are happy with Boehner’s new attitude.

 

Democrats, however, praised his comments.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) weighed in on the feud Thursday, saying she “was encouraged” by Boehner’s remarks but isn’t yet banking on the notion that they foreshadow a new era of bipartisan cooperation.

“We’ll see what happens today,” she said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) called them “a breath of fresh air.”

 

Just what we need. I have one question to ask Mr. Boehner. How does he expect his party to win elections if the leaders openly despise their most active grassroots supporters? Perhaps he has bought into the mainstream media theme that the Tea Party is just a few extreme wackos and that he should cooperate with the Democrats in supporting an ever growing government. If this is the case, he and others like him could be unpleasantly surprised next November.

 

 

 

 

Quality or Quantity

July 28, 2013

I was thinking about the e-mail I received from Organizing for Action the other day; the one criticizing Speaker Boehner for claiming that Congress should be judged by the number of laws that are repealed. It occurs to me that the standard they are using to judge Congress is based on the number of bills passed rather than whether the bills are actually good ideas. Surely it is better to pass one good law than ten bad ones, and surely it is better to repeal ten laws known to be bad than to pass one law which may be good. I really wish we could somehow get away from the mentality that the solution to any problem is pass legislation quickly without thinking too much about whether it might have any unintended consequences.

It is not too hard to imagine why politicians of every party prefer to be judged by quantity rather than quality and why they would rather not be judged by results. If people ever realized that they would be better off trying to solve their problems on their own, rather than expecting the government to do something, and that the sort of person who runs for office is the last one you should depend on,  then most politicians would be out of a job.

Do Nothing Congress

July 23, 2013

I got another email from Organizing for Action.

David —

Think about this:

Yesterday, the speaker of the House went on national TV and said that Congress “should not be judged on how many new laws we create,” but rather on “how many laws … we repeal.”

It’s just embarrassing. Within hours of his interview, Boehner’s remarks were making headlines across the country — and even overseas.

We elected our members of Congress to work on the issues we care about: creating jobs, fixing our immigration system, fighting climate change, and passing laws to reduce gun violence.

We didn’t put them in office to sit there and wind back the clock.

All next month, while our members of Congress are home on recess, we’ll be holding Action August events and making our voices heard. I’m asking you to help make sure they go back to Washington with a message for John Boehner.

Chip in $5 or more to support our grassroots organization today:

Thanks,

Jon

Jon Carson
Executive Director
Organizing for Action

P.S. — Last week, the House voted to kill or delay Obamacare for the 39th time. That’s the kind of obstructionism we’re up against. Donate today.

I am not ashamed at all. Considering that the Code of Laws of the United States of America runs to over 200,000 pages, I don’t think we have a shortage of laws.

I think that the best thing that Congress could possibly do for America would be to take a break from any new legislation for the next couple of years. Instead, they should go through the entire body of federal law and eliminate every law, regulation, statute that is unnecessary, burdensome, superfluous, or has an effect contrary to the intent of the legislators. First on the list would be Obamacare. After all this is done and the federal law code is streamlined and efficient, we can start passing new laws. It would probably be a good idea to include an expiration date for any new laws so that Congress can be forced to go back and investigate how effective the laws actually were.

This is not likely to happen, though. Until it does, I’ll settle for obstructionism.

 

Meat Cleaver

February 25, 2013

According to the Democrats, the round of mandatory spending cuts required by the sequester are like a meat cleaver slashing away at needed programs.

David —

If you didn’t do your job, you’d be fired.

But when Eric Cantor and John Boehner don’t do their jobs, two million Americans get handed pink slips.

Right now, House Republicans are refusing to even vote on the sequester. If they do nothing, a meat-cleaver will chop away, almost indiscriminately, at essential domestic programs and make life even harder for millions of Americans.

We can’t let that happen.

If we go over the sequester cliff on March 1st, two million jobs could be lost — including law enforcement, first responders and teachers. Essential programs for pregnant women, children and domestic abuse victims could shut their doors. And the economy could be thrown back into a recession.

President Obama made it clear: “This is not an abstraction — people will lose their jobs.”

Join the DCCC, Democratic Governors, and proud Democrats all across the country calling out Boehner and Cantor before the sequester deadline:

http://dccc.org/Stop-The-Sequester

Thanks,

Brandon

Brandon English
DCCC Digital Director

I only wish they were using a meat cleaver to cut the budget. We badly need to take a cleaver to cut spending. As it happens, the deep sequester cuts are really only cuts in the rate of spending, not actual cuts in spending. Even so, the cuts are hardly deep at all, as Veronique de Rugy explains.

Changes in spending from sequestration result in new budget projections below the CBO’s baseline projection of spending based on current law. The federal government would spend $3.62 trillion in the first year with sequestration versus the $3.69 trillion projected by CBO. By 2021, the government would spend $5.26 trillion versus the $5.41 trillion projected. Overall, without a sequester, federal spending would increase $1.7 trillion (blue line). With a sequester, federal spending would increase by $1.6 trillion (red line).

A further breakdown of the percentage of budget programs reveals that sequestration provides relatively small reductions in spending rates across the board. With sequestration, defense increases 18% (vs. 20%); nondefense discretionary increases 12% (vs. 14%); Medicare roughly increases at the same rate; and net interest increases 136% (vs. 152%).

While the sequester projections are nominal spending increases, most budget plans count them as cuts. Referring to decreases in the rate of growth of spending as “cuts” influences public perceptions about the budget. When the public hears “cut,” it thinks that spending has been significantly reduced below current levels, not that spending has increased. Thus, calling a reduced growth rate of projected spending a “cut” leads to confusion, a growing deficit, and an ever-larger burden for future generations.

Here is the graph that went with that article.

verochart500px

The so-called deep cuts that will endanger the country and put millions out of work are hardly more than a statistical error. It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Obama and the Democrats are simply lying when they describe the spending cuts as indiscriminate. If anything they are not nearly deep enough. There seems to be a certain unreality in both parties of our political class. The Republicans know there is a problem and that we cannot continue to run up astronomical deficits every single year. They are so afraid of being cast as the villains who want to cut the budget to hurt the poor and provide their rich friends with tax cuts that they are afraid to make anything more than symbolic cuts in the rate of increase of spending. They are right to be wary since that is precisely what the Democrats, with their allies in the media will do, regardless of the Republican position. The Democrats, for their part, refuse to admit that there is any problem with spending that raising taxes on the 1% won’t solve. President Obama is not in the least interested in cutting spending. He seems to be more interested in redistributing the wealth of the country in ways that he considers fair than in maximizing revenue. In fact, it may not be too cynical to imagine that Obama has been deliberately increasing the deficit in order to justify the higher, fairer taxes he craves.

Since no one in Washington cares to do their job, managing the resources of the government in a responsible fashion, then I think the best bet is simply to let the sequestration cuts go ahead. There may well be people hurt by the “cuts” but we have to start cutting the budget sometime. There will be a lot more people hurt if the federal government has to start defaulting on its debts or the dollar loses its value. As far as I am concerned the blame for anyone being hurt by spending cuts lies on the people who encouraged dependency with no regard for how unsustainable this sort of spending would be in the long, or even medium term.

 

Debt Deal Winners

August 3, 2011

I am still not certain who has come out ahead in the debt ceiling deal. Michael Barone seems to think that the Republicans go the better of the deal. In his latest column, courtesy of Human Events, he explains that the Republicans win when the debate is over spending cuts.

First of all, the liberals seem to be a whole lot angrier over the deal.

Democrats seem especially unhappy. They could have avoided the fight in the first place by raising the debt ceiling in the lame duck session in December, when they had large majorities in both houses of Congress.

But they decided not to. Reid’s comments then suggested that he expected the issue to split the House Republicans, pitting the leadership against the 87 Tea Party-sympathizing freshmen. The leaders would have to agree to a tax increase in order to get a deal, with a party schism like the one that followed George H.W. Bush’s agreement to a tax increase in 1990.

That didn’t happen. Instead Reid abandoned his demand for a tax increase. The reason, I think, is that he hasn’t had a 50-vote majority for a tax increase in the Senate, just as Senate Democrats haven’t been able to pass a budget.

All of which left Barack Obama looking somewhat ridiculous when he called for more taxes in his televised speech Monday night. When you’re trying to show you’re leading and your followers have already gone off in another direction, you tend to look like something other than a leader.

Some Democrats, in frustration, have said House Republicans are acting “almost like a dictatorship” or are using “terrorist tactics.” But in opposing tax increases, House Republicans are just being true to the voters who gave them in November 2010 a larger majority than they have won since 1946.

Other Democrats have taken to blaming Obama. Robert Reich, labor secretary in the Clinton administration, decries an empty bully pulpit. Paul Krugman​, the trade economist who writes partisan vitriol for The New York Times, talks about a centrist copout.

That’s what they get for being too clever. Here is the point of the column.

All of which weakens Boehner’s bargaining position and may mean a final bill less tilted to Republican demands. But, as many Democrats note, the battle is being fought over how much spending to cut, which means that Republicans are winning. The question is just how much.

Democrats went into this fight with a precedent in mind, the budget fight between President Clinton​ and Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1995-96. The conventional wisdom is that Clinton won that fight and Republicans lost.

That’s not quite right: After shifting to noticeably more moderate policies, Clinton was re-elected in 1996, but Republicans lost few House seats and held onto their congressional majorities at the same time.

The difference this time is that Obama has not shifted policies noticeably, but instead has seemed to position himself as a complainer on the sidelines, asking voters to call their congressman. He has presented no specific plan of his own. His chief of staff reports that he hasn’t spoken at all to Boehner lately.

One major difference which Barone neglects to mention is the simply fact that with the loss of their monopoly over the news media, the Liberals are no longer able to completely control the narrative. Back in Clinton’s day, before Fox, the Internet, and when Conservative talk radio was just beginning to get big, Clinton enjoyed the advantage of being able to fight almost entirely on his own terms. If the media slammed the Republicans for being extreme and stubborn, there was really only Rush Limbaugh to tell the other side. Now, of course, Obama does not have that advantage and the fight is more equal.

I think that on the whole the republicans did get the better of the deal. It’s no where near enough to avert eventual catastrophe but at least it’s a step in the right direction.

Trillions and Trillions

July 21, 2011

The United States Federal Government is more than $14 trillion in debt. I think that one of the problems in our political discussions over the debt is that the human mind is simply not designed to comprehend such large numbers. We may understand them on an intellectual level but not on an emotional or “gut” level. I am not sure what the largest number we can really understand intuitively, maybe 20 or 100. Anyone can instantly tell the difference between 10 and 20 or 50 and 100, but when it comes to millions or billions, it’s harder to compare.

The largest number the ancient Greeks and Romans used was the “myriad” which was 10,000. So 50,000 was 50 myriad, 1,000,000 was 100 myriad, and so on. This went up all the way to a myriad myriad which means 100,000,000. They didn’t really need any numbers larger than that.

By the time of the Renaissance, mathematicians and bankers needed larger numbers. The precise meaning of large number names varies from country to country. I will be using American usage.  A million is a thousand thousand. The word million was coined sometime in the 14th century from French and Italian. A billion is a thousand million. The word was coined around 1680 and means simply two + million. A trillion is a thousand billion. The word was also coined around 1680 and means three + million. I could go on with quadrillion, quintillion, and so on but I think you get the point. Anyway mathematicians and scientists who use really large number use scientific notation, which is beyond the scope of this post.

All right now, let’s see if we can understand 14 trillion. Fourteen doesn’t seem to be a large number, does it? Well, let’s convert the trillions to billions giving us  14 thousand billion. That seems a bit larger. Now let’s go further down to millions. Now we have 14 thousand thousand million. One more step. Try thinking about 14 thousand thousand thousand. That sounds like a whole lot more than just 14 trillion.

Whichever way you put it, that is a truly astronomical number. It is more than the number of stars in our galaxy. It is more than the number of galaxies in the observable universe. It’s a little more than half the distance to Alpha Centauri, the nearest star, in miles, but give Obama a second term and I’m sure we’ll get there.

If any of this doesn’t help, here is a visual aid I got from life’s little mysteries.

What the 14 Trillion National Debt Looks Like
Infographic Source:

 

With all that in mind, the current controversy concerning the debt limit seems to me to be rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. The iceberg has hit us and we had better start plugging the hole.


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