Posts Tagged ‘Republicans’

The Election of 1860

June 17, 2017

The Election of 1860 was, without doubt, the most contentious election in American history, ending as it did with the secession of the South and the Civil War. For democracy to work, the loser of an election, along with his supporters have to be willing to concede to the winner. This can happen as long as the consequence of an election is not an existential threat to the lives and liberties of the losers. For the first, and so far only, time in the history of the United States a large portion of the electorate simply refused to accept the results of a democratic election, in part because they feared the results would be destructive to their way of life.

How did it come to this, that the South so feared the election of Abraham Lincoln that it was willing to secede from the Union and risk war? Slavery had been an increasingly divisive issue for decades, yet the nation had always managed to find some sort of compromise to pull back from the brink. There had been talk of secession since the beginning of the Union, but it was mostly talk. No one seemed willing to take the fateful step to dissolve the Union before 1860. After his election in 1856, President James Buchanan had even dared to hope that the contentious slavery debate would be settled by the of his term and peace and prosperity would be the rule. He could not have been more wrong. In fact, it was during President Buchanan’s administration that a series of events occurred that made Civil War if not inevitable, certainly increased sectional tensions to the breaking point.

Historians generally hold that the Civil War began when Confederate Army fired on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, yet in a way the Civil War had actually started almost a decade earlier in Kansas. As early as 1854 fighting had broken out between pro and anti-slavery settlers in the Kansas Territory. The Kansas-Nebraska Act had called for popular sovereignty to decide whether Kansas would be Slave or Free. Settlers from North and South poured into Kansas attempting to get a majority for their side. Election fraud was rampant and neither side was willing to concede to the other, resulting in two separate territorial legislatures. It wasn’t long before violence broke out, egged on by radicals back east only too willing to supply arms.

Then there was the Supreme Court’s decision in Dred Scott vs. Sanford, announced just two days after President Buchanan’s inauguration. This decision which overturned the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and denied the right of Congress to outlaw slavery in the territories delighted the South and infuriated the North. Because of this ruling, slavery could no longer be contained to southern territories but could spread north. Even worse, because the Court decided that Dred Scott was not free just because his master had taken him to a state where slavery was illegal, opened the door to the possibility that state laws forbidding slavery might be effectively overturned since freeing the slaves of a person who moved North could be construed as unlawfully depriving him of his property. Chief Justice Roger Taney and President Buchanan hoped that the Dred Scott decision would settle the issue of slavery once and for all, but the uncompromising nature of the decision only made things worse.

Finally, there was John Brown’s raid on the federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry on October 19, 1859. I don’t think the Northern abolitionists had any idea how afraid the slave owners of the South were of their own slaves. While Southern apologists depicted the Blacks as simple minded creatures, perfectly content with slavery in their propaganda, anyone who had much contact with the slaves must have known how much they resented their servitude. They had good reason to fear that the Black slaves would take a terrible revenge if they ever got the chance. When the abolitionists demanded that slavery be ended, the Southern Whites, only heard a call for their own destruction. When a terrorist from Kansas tried to incite a slave insurrection only to be hailed as a hero and a martyr by sympathetic Northerners, the Southerners must have seen their worst fears confirmed.

By the election of 1860, it must have seemed that the United States could no longer be half Free and half Slave. Either slavery would be abolished, along with a way of life that benefited the Southern elite, or slavery must spread to every part of the nation. Little wonder a Civil War resulted.

The Democratic convention was held in Charleston South Carolina in April. Since President Buchanan declined to run for reelection, the most obvious candidate was Stephen Douglas from Illinois. Douglas had served in the House of Representatives from 1843 to 1847 and then in the Senate from 1847 until his death from typhoid fever in 1861. Stephan Douglas is best known today for his famous debates with Abraham Lincoln during the Senatorial election of 1856. He was a great believer in democracy, believing that popular sovereignty should settle the slavery issue in the territories. Douglas tended to oppose the Dred Scott decision, but had to be careful lest he alienate the South.

This “pro-choice” did not please the Southern delegates at the convention who wanted a party platform that specifically protected slavery. This Douglas and the Northern delegates would not agree to and the convention broke up. This was not a good sign.

The Democrats met again the following month in Baltimore. Again the Northern and Southern delegates could not agree on a candidate or a platform, so they held separate conventions. The Northern delegates nominated Stephen Douglas, as expected, and selected Herschel V. Johnson, the governor of Georgia from 1853-1857. Their platform called for popular sovereignty in the territories.

The Southern delegates nominated Vice-President John C. Breckinridge for President and Joseph Lane, one of Oregon’s first two senators, for Vice-President. They supported a platform demanding federal protection of slavery in the territories.

Meanwhile, the Republicans held their convention in Chicago from May 16 to 18. Abraham Lincoln was not really one of the leaders of the Republican Party. The more prominent Republicans who were expected to get the nomination included Senator William Seward of New York. Governor Salmon P. Chase from Ohio, and Senator Simon Cameron from Pennsylvania. Lincoln’s political resume was thin compared to these leaders having only served in the House of Representatives from 1847-1849 and in the Illinois Legislature form 1834-1842. However, each of these leaders had made enemies and had alienated one faction or another of the party. Lincoln, in contrast was well liked and known to be a good debater. The Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1856 had attracted national attention. Lincoln was also a shrewd politician and while he was against slavery, he was not as radical as some Republicans. Lincoln was nominated on the third ballot and Senator Hannibal Hamlin of Maine was selected as his running mate.

Then, because things were not confusing enough with three candidates, a group of former Whigs, along with a few Democrats and former Know-Nothings met in Baltimore on May 9 to organize the Constitutional Union Party. This party was for preserving the Union at any cost, and not much else. They were silent on the slavery question, perhaps hoping to make the controversy go away. The Constitutional Union Party nominated John Bell, who had served as Senator from Tennessee from 1847-1859. Bell had begun his political career as a Democratic supporter of Andrew Jackson, then he split with Jackson to become the leader of the Whig Party in Tennessee. By the 1850’s he had begun to create a third party composed of moderates from both the North and South in an effort to alleviate the increasing sectional tension. Bell’s relatively moderate views on slavery made him unpopular in the South, though he had some appeal in the border states. The Constitutional Union Party went on to nominate former Senator from Massachusetts, Edward Everett as Bell’s running mate.

 

Since the Democratic party was split and Lincoln wasn’t even on the ballot in the South, the the election of 1860, was essentially two separate contests, Lincoln vs Douglas in the North and Bell vs Breckinridge in the South. As one might imagine, this turned out to be an exciting and tumultuous election, with all the hoopla of American politics in the nineteenth century. Stephen Douglas broke with tradition and actually went out to campaign in person, in the South as well as the North. In the South, he pleaded for the Southerners to accept the results of the election, no matter who won. They didn’t listen. Southern newspapers continued to run editorials promising secession and war if the “Black Republican” Lincoln were elected.

The other candidates stayed at home and tried to look dignified and presidential but their supporters made up the difference in raucous energy. Bell’s supporters rang bells at rallies. Republicans were the most enthusiastic, holding parades featuring rails that the great rail splitter Abraham Lincoln had personally split.  If it weren’t for the great seriousness of it all, it would have been a lot of fun.

None of the four candidates got a majority of the popular vote, but Lincoln won a plurality with 1,865,908 votes or 39.8% of the total. Douglas came in second with 1,380,202 votes (29.5%). Breckinridge was third with 848,019 votes (18.1%C) and Bell came in last with 590,901 votes (12.6%). It is slightly ironic that if the Southern Democrats had supported Stephen Douglas, he might have won the election. By leaving the convention and nominating their own candidate, they virtually guaranteed a victory for Lincoln, the one candidate they could not accept.

The Electoral vote was more decisive, with Lincoln getting a comfortable majority. The vote was divided along sectional lines. Lincoln won the entire North and West except for New Jersey, getting a total of 180 electoral votes. New Jersey split its seven votes giving four to Lincoln and three to Douglas. Douglas was second in the popular vote, but last in the Electoral College winning only Missouri’s nine votes and three of New Jersey’s for a total of 12 electoral votes. Breckinridge won all the Southern states, except for Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia, and got a total of 72 electoral votes. Bell won those three states with 39 electoral votes.

The Election of 1860

The Election of 1860

Stephen Douglas realized that a Lincoln victory would divide the country and immediately after the election he traveled south and gave speeches supporting the Union. It didn’t work and on December 20, 1860 South Carolina formally succeeded from the Union. Soon, the other Southern states followed and America’s bloodiest war began.

Republican Stockholm Syndrome

March 8, 2017

I have always rather liked George W. Bush. He has seemed to be a decent enough guy who really tried to be a good president. I wouldn’t say that he was one of the best presidents that we have ever had, but he wasn’t the worst either. He certainly didn’t deserve the hatred and abuse heaped upon him by the left and the media. That is why it is sad to see that George W. Bush has come down with Republican Stockholm Syndrome, that mysterious malady that causes Republicans to defend their tormentors in the media while attacking their fellow Republicans. Bush has remained silent throughout the administration of his successor, Barack Obama, but has offered some criticism of Donald Trump in recent interviews, as noted in this article from Fox news.

Former President George W. Bush offered what appeared to be a thinly veiled critique of his Republican successor on Monday, as he defended the importance of the media and immigration policies that are “welcoming.”

Bush, during an interview on NBC’s “Today” show to promote a new book of military portraits, addressed a range of President Trump controversies, specifically when asked about the executive order to temporarily restrict travel from seven predominantly Muslim countries. That order stalled in court, though Trump is expected to issue a new — but similar — order this week.

He doesn’t seem to wholly approve of Trump’s combative relationship with the media.

Until now, Bush largely has remained mum about the policies not only of Trump, but of former President Barack Obama. Bush’s comments Monday stopped short of a reprimand, but highlighted differences between his and Trump’s respective approaches to common challenges.

While Trump has repeatedly lambasted media organizations and termed numerous negative reports “fake news,” Bush applauded the same media that often derided him during his Oval Office tenure.

“I consider the media to be indispensable to democracy,” Bush said. “That we need an independent media to hold people like me to account. Power can be very addictive. And it can be corrosive.”

Bush is right in that we do need an independent media to hold people in power to account. Too bad we don’t have such an independent media. What we do have, as Bush ought to know, is a media determined to advance the careers of Democrats and destroy Republicans at any cost, including the use of fake news.

For eight years the media pummeled George W. Bush with fake news after fake news for the express purpose of destroying his presidency. Does he not remember, “Bush lied, the troops died”,  misreporting on Hurricane Katrina to imply that Bush wanted Blacks to die, and much, much else. For eight years the media refused to report on anything that might reflect poorly on their anointed Lightworker, and then praised him for having a scandal free administration. Well, if a tree that falls in a forest makes no noise if no one is there to listen, than a president is scandal free if no one bothers to report on any of his scandals.

Bush is probably the last person to comment on anyone’s handling of the press. He refused to fight back, even when the most egregious slanders were reported as facts. Maybe he was too much of a gentleman to get into such fights. Maybe he thought it was more dignified to remain silent. I think that his presidency would have been more successful and the country better off if Bush had fought back against the purveyors of fake news.

There is a lot not to like about Donald Trump. He is not a conservative. He is only nominally a Republican. Trump’s instincts seem to favor the sort of big government solutions conservatives deplore. Trump can be undisciplined and too inclined to shoot off his mouth when silence would be more appropriate. But Trump has one saving grace that makes me inclined to forgive his many faults. Trump fights. He does not stand silent when he is attacked as so many Republicans do. He fights back. Trump seems to understand that being nice to the mainstream media simply doesn’t work. Trying to be presidential and refusing to dignify media attacks with a response only results in a damaged and ineffective presidency. Trump may be crude and undignified, but he does seem to know how to handle the media. I wish other Republicans would learn from him. At the very least, I wish other Republicans would learn not to attack each other in the hope of a few nice words from the media that despises them.

The Great Tsunami of 2014

November 5, 2014

I expected the Republicans to make some gains yesterday, the opposing party usually does in midterm elections. In my more optimistic moments, I even considered the possibility that there would be a Republican wave. This didn’t seem too unlikely considering the unpopularity of President Obama at the moment. My optimism was tempered by the knowledge that the GOP has an uncanny knack for screwing up elections at the last moment. Still, a wave seemed possible. I never expected what actually happened, a complete rout of the Democrats. This was not just a wave but a tsunami.

Here are some numbers. The Republicans gained at least seven seats in the Senate gaining the majority. Previously, the Democrats held 55 seats to the Republican’s 45 but now the ratio is 52 Republicans and  45 Democrats. The race in Alaska has not been called yet and there will have to be a runoff in Louisiana. Also, in Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner has apparently won reelection in a close race but his opponent Ed Gillespie has not conceded and there may be a recount. There is then the possibility of the Republicans picking up three more seats in the Senate.  In the House of Representatives the Republicans  gained 12 seats expanding their majority from 233 Republicans to 199 Democrats to 244 Republicans to 180 Democrats. This is the largest majority the Republicans have had in the House of Representatives since 1946.

 

On the state level, the Republicans have increased the number of Republican governors by two. Previously there were 29 Republican governors and 21 Democrats. Now there will be 31 Republicans and 17 Democrats. The Republicans made impressive gains in state legislatures. Of the 98 chambers, two per state (except for Nebraska which has a non-partisan and unicameral legislature), the Republicans controlled 59. Now they will control 67 chambers and in no fewer than 24 states the Republicans will control both the state legislature and the Governor’s mansion. This is the best they have done since the 1920s.Winning control of  state governments is even more significant than the federal government since most of the real “action” in law making still takes place at the state level. The national media, based in New York and Washington tends to over emphasise the importance of Washington D C and does a real disservice by tending to neglect the actions of state governments.

Mere numbers don’t tell the whole story. The Republicans made serious inroads into what should have been safe Democratic territory. There are new Republican governors in Illinois, Massachusetts and Maryland. All of Arkansas’s seats in the House of Representatives are held by  Republicans for the first time in 141 years. There seem to be more Black Republicans this year. Mia Love from Utah was the first Black Republican woman in the House and Tim Scott was the first Black  from South Carolina to be elected to the Senate since the Reconstruction era. Also from South Carolina, the Indian Republican Nicki Haley was reelected. Republicans also made gains with the Hispanic vote. Perhaps the idea that the Republican Party is doomed to irrelevance because of demographics should be reexamined.Need I remind the reader that Alan West, Ben Carson and Ted Cruz are all Republican heroes despite not being White?

Well it was an amazing election, perhaps even a historical one, but I hope the Republicans don’t blow it over the next two years. They should keep in mind that 2016 could be just as bad for them as 2014 was good. In the meantime, while gloating is unseemly and I certainly shouldn’t do it, I hope I can be forgiven for enjoying what is best in life, just a little.

 

There was a lot of lamentation of Democratic women, and men, last night.

Drowning the Libertarians

September 22, 2014

Last week, Ann Coulter threatened to drown anyone considering voting for the Libertarian candidate in any Senate election thereby threatening the Republican’s chances of gaining a majority this year. This was a little over the top, perhaps, as only Ann Coulter can be, but her point is well taken. Another Townhall.com columnist, Nick Sorrentino didn’t much care for Ms. Coulter’s advice.

Is it possible that Anne Coulter’s cocktail dresses are cutting off oxygen to her brain? Is it possible that Ms. Coulter is just naturally a busybody who despises libertarians because she can’t help but stick her nose into other people’s business? Is it possible that Ms. Coulter is little more than a partisan hack with little philosophical meat to her positions?

Yes.

I get her point. Don’t let the Dems keep the Senate by voting Libertarian and thereby killing the chances of the GOP candidate.

But generally most people who lean libertarian are at least open to voting for a libertarian leaning Republican. There are a few who exist. (And their numbers are growing.) What many libertarians and conservatives can’t palate any longer is voting for another big government neocon just because he or she happens to have a R next to their name.

We killed Romney’s election and we will kill others until the GOP understands that it can’t get people elected unless the candidate is generally inclined in the libertarian direction. It’s not that the libertarians need to “suck it up” as Coulter who seems permanently lodged in 2004 thinks, it’s that Coulter and other old school big government Republicans have to suck it up and recognize that the GOP is going in a new direction whether they like it or not. Either get with it Coulter and Beltway GOP, or we are going to remain on strike.

So, libertarian leaning conservatives killed Romney’s election. How did that work out for you. We got another four years of the most left-wing president in American history. In other words you managed to accomplish the exact opposite result that you intended, more big government and intrusions on our liberties. If libertarian leaning conservatives stay home this November or vote for the Libertarian candidate, all you will accomplish is another two years with a Democratic majority in the Senate, voting to confirm all of President Obama’s appointments to the federal judiciary, no matter how radical.

The American political system is structurally designed to be a two-party system. Because the United States has first past the post, winner take  all elections, it is almost impossible for any third-party candidate to get elected to any office. Since this is the case, a vote for a third-party candidate is, in a very real sense, a vote for the candidate of the opposing party. A vote for the Libertarians helps the Democrats. A vote for the Green Party helps the Republicans. The proper time to register your discontent with the party establishment is during the primaries. Once the candidate of your preferred party is nominated, you can either vote for the person who shares at least some of your ideological preferences, or you can decide he isn’t liberal/conservative enough, stay home or vote for a third-party candidate,  and let the person who is your ideological opposite win. No doubt the people who vote Libertarian or Green feel very proud of themselves for not compromising their principles, but they are responsible for making sure those principles are never enacted. By the way, this holds true for party establishments who would rather support the opposing party’s candidate than their own that they feel is too “extreme”. This kind of back stabbing is despicable.

Any conservative who would rather have another two years of a Democratic majority than vote for a candidate that does not meet their exacting criteria deserves to have Ann Coulter come to their house and drown them.

Missing the Point

August 5, 2013

I found this picture posted on a Facebook group called Americans Against the Republican Party.

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This graphic was titled, “Welcome to the real world, not GOP fantasy land”.

I think the person who put this together is missing the point on several levels. For one thing, many of these rankings are debatable and some are subjective. How did they rate levels of democracy or press freedom? Different countries use different criteria for things like infant survival, crime rates, etc making direct comparisons not as easy as one might expect. There are no citations given, so who knows if any of the rankings are actually true? Even taking them all at face value, no one but a fool has ever said that the U.S. is the best at everything.

If the U. S. is number one, it is because we have the largest economy, somewhere around 25% of the world’s total, and the largest and best military. Because of these facts, American has more influence on world events than any other nation. In soft power, the U. S. has more diplomatic and cultural influence than any other nation. The President of the United States is the closest thing we have to a leader of the whole world. Whenever there is a crisis anywhere in world, all the other nations look to the United States for leadership. We have become, at this time, the indispensable nation. Without America the world would be less prosperous, less peaceful, and less technologically advanced. If America should fail, the world would become an uglier place very quickly.

I am writing all of this not to brag about my country. These are simple facts. America is number one at this moment in power, wealth and influence. We do have many flaws and are far from being a perfect nation. No one who has any sense would deny it. The people who made this picture are attacking a strawman, arguing that the Republicans live in a fantasy land in which American is first in every field.

I have to wonder, when did patriotism become a partisan issue? How is is it that Republicans seem to be the only patriotic party. I would not believe this to be the case, but Americans Against the Republican Party evidently believes it to be. They themselves certainly seem to want to belittle their country. I said that America has its flaws and I do not believe we should whitewash or deny them. I think America is a great country despite its flaws. These people, however, seem to take a certain glee in putting down America. I think that in the not too distant past both Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives believed themselves to be patriotic and that America was an exceptional nation. Now it seems that many Democrats go out of their way to assert that America is not very exceptional at all. We have people who consider themselves liberal who feel that patriotism is somehow vulgar and beneath them. How did this happen? Is it because the radicals from the 1960’s have managed to infiltrate so many of our institutions?

I am a patriot. I love my country. I love it not because it is wealthy and powerful, although I am glad it is. America and Americans have done great things and I am proud of that, but that is not why I love my country. I love my country simply because it is MY country. There are some who might feel that this sentiment is old-fashioned; a antiquated impulse that sophisticated people should have abandoned. I don’t think so. Homo sapiens is a pack animal and it is only natural and right for us to love our own; our family, our tribe, our nation. This instinct can be taken too far, of course. It can be perverted into the kind of poisonous nationalism that inspires war and genocide. But, any natural human instinct can be perverted. There some some people who derive sexual gratification from hurting or killing others. The sexual instinct in such people is perverted, but that doesn’t mean the sexual instinct itself is bad. So it is with many other natural instincts of humanity. Patriotism may be perverted, but patriotism is itself a good thing. As Sir Walter Scott wrote:

Breathes there the man, with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne’er within him burn’d,
As home his footsteps he hath turn’d
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark him well;
For him no Minstrel raptures swell;
High though his titles, proud his name

Boundless his wealth as wish can claim;
Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence he sprung,
Unwept, unhonour’d, and unsung.

Do these people who are so quick to deride their own country really have dead souls? I wonder.

 

 

Jesus’s Appearance

April 29, 2013

I saw this posted on a Facebook group.

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I was not aware that the Republican party had any sort of official position on the appearance of Jesus, nor was I aware that Republicans do not believe in science.The picture on the right is not how Science sees Jesus. That picture is a reconstruction of a typical first century Judean male based on skeletal evidence and forensic anthropology. The physical appearance of Jesus is never described in the gospels but we can infer that he did not look in any way unusual or had any particular distinguishing marks.

You can see the trick here. Liberals state that their positions are based on Science. Therefore if you do not agree with them than you do not believe in Science. For example, if you do not believe that man-made global warming is a drastic threat that requires immediate action which might damage the world’s economy and lower living standards for billions. The truth is that it is people on the Left who consistently misunderstand the nature of science. I have said it before. Science is not an infallible Authority. Science is not based upon unquestioned dogma. Science is a method of asking questions about the world around us and getting the answers.

But, as to Jesus’s appearance. It is important to remember that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew who lived in Galilee in the first century. The New Testament and especially the Gospels cannot be properly understood without a knowledge and appreciation of the cultural background in which the books of the New Testament were written. It is unfortunate that many generations of Christians have tended to disregard the Jewish heritage of their faith.

Still, the Jesus Christ ought not to be too tied to any one culture or ethnicity. As the Son of God and our Savior, Jesus is universal and can be claimed by all humankind. Thus we have the Northern European Jesus.

Eurojesus

Or the Chinese Jesus

chinese-jesus-11

Or the African Jesus

BlackJesus_Euro_hair

The Indian Jesus

indian_jesus

And the Native American Jesus

NativeAmericanJesus

He can be depicted as a Byzantine Emperor.

MA Byzantine Jesus

Or as a humble shepard

Jesus-Good-Shepherd-04

Jesus has been depicted in many ways in books, art, in movies and in manga.

Manga_Messiah

So, every culture and ethnic group can claim Jesus as their own. His actual physical appearance is quite irrelevant. What matters most is the message He preached and His death and resurrection.

 

 

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.

 

What He Said

February 7, 2013

I haven’t been following Rand Paul‘s career in the Senate very closely, even though he represents our neighboring state, Kentucky. If this video is any indication, he might have a brilliant career ahead of him.

This is great! I’ve been wanting to ask someone these kinds of questions for years. Why can’t I decide what kind of lightbulb or toilet to use. It’s my life.

But, of course it is not about conserving energy of saving the Earth. It is, and always has been, about power. Maybe if we can get a few more Rand Pauls into the Senate, things will change.

Right to Work in Michigan

December 11, 2012

I never would have expected it in such a strongly blue, pro-union state as Michigan, but so they did. Here is the story at the Washington Post.

As the chants of angry protesters filled the Capitol, Michigan lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to right-to-work legislation, dealing a devastating and once-unthinkable defeat to organized labor in a state that has been a cradle of the movement for generations.

The Republican-dominated House ignored Democrats’ pleas to delay the passage and instead approved two bills with the same ruthless efficiency that the Senate showed last week. One measure dealt with private sector workers, the other with government employees. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed them both within hours.

“This is about freedom, fairness and equality,” House Speaker Jase Bolger said during floor debate. “These are basic American rights — rights that should unite us.”

After the vote, he said, Michigan’s future “has never been brighter, because workers are free.”

Once the laws are enacted, the state where the United Auto Workers was founded and labor has long been a political titan will join 23 others with right-to-work laws, which ban requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services.

Supporters say the laws give workers more choice and support economic growth, but critics insist the real intent is to weaken organized labor by encouraging workers to “freeload” by withholding money unions need to bargain effectively.

Right now Michigan’s future could hardly be dimmer. Maybe this will be the first step towards a more pro-business set of policies that will allow Michigan to flourish again. It is interesting that Michigan, a state that went heavily for Obama in the last election has a Republican governor and a State Legislature with a Republican majority in both houses. Could it be that reports of the death of the Republican Party are greatly exaggerated, especially at the state level?

Naturally the unions are fighting this tooth and nail. I would hardly expect them to do otherwise. Of course one might hope that their actions would be non violent and within the law but perhaps that is too much to expect. I suppose that there will be a repeat of the sort of mob violence we saw in Wisconsin last year.

Meanwhile schools in Michigan have had to close today because teachers have been calling in sick to protest. This is from Michigan Capitol Confidential.

At least 26,000 children will miss school today because their teachers called in sick or took a vacation day to protest proposed right-to-work legislation, which is expected to pass today.

Warren Consolidated Schools, Taylor School District and Fitzgerald Public Schools are confirmed to be closed. It is also suggested that schools in Detroit and St. Johns may be missing a significant number of teachers.

“We’ve had an excessive number of teachers call in,” Warren district spokesperson Robert Freehan said Monday afternoon. “We’re concerned about the safety and security of the students, so we’re treating it as a snow day.”

Ben Lazarus is a school board member-elect for Warren Consolidated. He believes the district, but not the teachers, made the right call.

“I think that political agendas shouldn’t take precedence over student learning,” said Lazarus. “I think the superintendent made the best decision with the facts available.”

The Warren district is the 9th-largest school district in Michigan. More than 15,000 students attend Warren Consolidated Schools. Parents will now have to scramble to find alternative care for their children because of the excessive teacher absences.

Warren Consolidated Schools is the second school district to announce closing in anticipation of a large protest in Lansing against proposed right-to-work legislation. Taylor School District Superintendent Diane Allen told WDIV that the district would be closed because so many teachers were taking sick or vacation days to attend rallies in Lansing.

Detroit Federation of Teachers president Keith Johnson anticipates “a huge crowd” in Lansing for the protest. When asked by the Free Press if any Detroit Public Schools would be closed, he said, “Hopefully.”

Some roads near the Capitol building will also be closed on Tuesday, due to anticipated protests and rallies.

At least one other district could be affected by the “sick out.” A parent in St. Johns Public Schools north of Lansing with children in the district said they were warned by their teachers that “most of them would not be at school [on Tuesday] because they were attending the protest and if enough substitutes were not found, they would close school.”

Fitzgerald Public Schools in Warren was is also closed because of staff absences. FPS Superintendent Barbara VanSweden announced on the school website, “FPS is closed on Tuesday, December 11, 2012 due to the number of staff that are absent.  The district will be closed just like a snow day.  My first priority is student safety and without an adequate number of staff, we cannot hold school.”

Freehan estimated that “several hundred” teachers called in sick or said that they would take vacation. The calls began early Monday morning, he said, and continued throughout the day. The district employs about 800 teachers, he said.

“We felt the best approach was to cancel school completely as well as extracurricular activities,” he said. “You can’t have students in school with just two staff members there.”

Lazarus believes right-to-work and other proposed educational reform bills need to be discussed, but that it would be beneficial for legislators to gather more input and information. And a “sick out” is the wrong way to go.

“I do understand that they have a political position,” Lazarus added. “[But] the first priority of a teacher should be student learning and I don’t think this adds to that.”

Just in case you thought that educating your children was their top priority. That is probably true for most individual teachers but certainly not for the teacher’s unions. Students don’t pay the union dues. Of course, it is not certain that this action will actually harm any students, at least not in the Detroit Public Schools.

In the public schools in Detroit, Mich., according to the U.S. Department of Education, only 7 percent of the eighth graders are grade-level proficient or better in reading.

Some public school teachers in the City of Detroit and around the state of Michigan are reportedly taking a vacation or a sick day today to protest right-to-work legislation likely to be approved by the state legislature. Under current law, Michigan public school teachers must pay dues to the teachers’ union. If the right-to-work law is enacted, Michigan public-school teachers will be free to join the union and pay dues to it if they wish, but they will also be free not to join the union and not to pay it dues.

Detroit public-school eighth graders do even worse in math than they do in reading, according to the Department of Education. While only 7 percent scored highly enough on the department’s National Assessment of Educational Progress test in 2011 to be rated “proficient” or better in reading, only 4 percent scored highly enough to be rated “proficient” or better in math.

I have to wonder just what they are actually doing in these schools. Not teaching children what they need to learn it would seem.

 

The Election of 1860

December 10, 2012

With all of the silly talk about states seceding we have had after the last election, perhaps it is time to take a look at a past election in which the talk of secession was deadly serious. I refer, of course, to the election of 1860, the election that preceded and sparked the American Civil War. Slavery and secession were the two main issues of that Presidential campaign, and before I write any more about the campaign, I will have to give a little historical background on each of these issues.

Slavery was legal in all thirteen colonies when the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Continental Congress in 1776. Slavery was rather rare in the northernmost states, such as New Hampshire and Massachusetts and much more common in the southern states where the climate and land permitted large-scale plantations. Nevertheless, slavery was not a sectional issue at that time.

During and after the War of Independence, it seemed obvious to many that the institution of slavery was incompatible with the ideals of liberty expressed in the Declaration and a movement to end slavery developed. In the northern states, slavery was largely abolished by the beginning of the nineteenth century, although because the larger states legislated gradual emancipation, there were still a few slaves in bondage as late as 1830. More importantly for the future of the new nation, slavery was prohibited in the Northwest Territory was the Northwestern Ordinance of 1787.
The founding fathers who held slaves had somewhat ambiguous feelings about the institution. They thought it necessary, but disliked it and believed that over time it would gradually die out. This didn’t happen. The invention of the cotton gin made slavery more profitable and attitudes hardened over time. In the north a newer generation of abolitionists were no longer willing for slavery to gradually die out, especially since it was beginning to show few signs of doing so. They wanted slavery abolished immediately, or at the least prevented from expanding into the new territories. The abolitionists were never a majority in the north but they were a vocal minority and over time their numbers and stridency grew. In the south, slave holders became increasingly defensive about their “peculiar institution”, all the more so as slavery was abolished throughout the civilized world. By 1860, only Brazil and the Spanish colony of Cuba still practiced slavery. By 1860, it was becoming increasingly clear that the United States could not continue to exist as a nation in which slavery was legal in half the country and prohibited in the other half. Either the country would have to be all free, all slave, or split into two.

This brings us to secession. In the early decades of the country, it was never entirely clear whether the United States was a federation of smaller sovereign states or a nation with sovereignty shared between the central government and the states but with the federal government pre-eminent. As early as 179, John Tyler of Virginia proposed that Virginia secede over the Alien and Sedition Acts. Thomas Jefferson wanted the Kentucky and Virginia legislatures to nullify the acts. In 1814, there was a movement in New England to secede over the War of 1812. South Carolina threatened to secede over the “Tariff of Abominations” in 1828, over the admission of California as a free state in 1850, and was the first state to secede in 1860.

Now, I can get to the election of 1860. The previous election, that of 1856 had seen the end of the second party system in the United States with the break up of the Whig Party and the rise of the anti-slavery Republicans. In that election, the Democrats had won the entire south, while the Republicans won New England and a few mid-western states. In the next four years, sectional tensions grew in the United States until a division between North and South became a real possibility. Already there was a sort of miniature civil war in Kansas over whether the territory would be admitted as a free state or a slave state. The infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857 polarized opinion as did the publication of the phenomenally successful Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The 1859 raid on Harper’s Ferry by John Brown terrified the South, naturally fearful of a slave revolt led by abolitionist, while Brown’s execution made him a martyr among abolitionists.

The Democratic convention was held in Charleston South Carolina in April. The obvious candidate was Stephen Douglas from Illinois who campaigned on a popular sovereignty position on the slavery issue. This “pro-choice” position did not please the increasingly radical southern delegates who wanted an out right pro-slavery platform in which slavery would be permitted in all territories under federal protection. This, the northern delegates would not agree to, so the convention broke up.
The Democrats met again the following month in Baltimore, this time the northern and southern delegates holding separate conventions. The northern delegates selected Stephen Douglas while the southerners nominated John C. Breckinridge from Kentucky. The irony here is that if the Democrats had united behind one candidate, that candidate would almost certainly have won the election since the Republican Party was not even on the ballot in the south. By dividing their efforts between two candidates they allowed the Republicans to win.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party had its convention in Chicago. William H. Seward of New York was a favorite at the convention but he had made too many political enemies. Although he had not had an especially prominent political career previously, Abraham Lincoln was well liked and articulate. He was firm on the slavery issue but not too radical, so he was selected on the third ballot.

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln

Then, because things were not confusing enough with three candidates, a fourth candidate jumped into the ring. There was another nominating convention in Baltimore in May. This was a group of former Whigs who were determined to keep the Union together at all costs. Calling themselves the Constitutional Union Party, they nominated John Bell, a former Speaker of the House from Tennessee.

John Bell

John Bell

As one might imagine, this turned out to be an exciting and tumultuous election. Stephen Douglas broke with tradition and actually went out to campaign in person, all over the country. The other candidates stayed at home and tried to look dignified and presidential but their supporters made up the difference in raucous energy. Bell’s supporters rang bells at rallies. Republicans held parades featuring rails that the great rail splitter Abraham Lincoln had personally split. Breckenridge’s people warned that a Lincoln victory would split the country. If it weren’t for the great seriousness of it all, it would have been a lot of fun.

You probably already know the result of the election of 1860. No candidate got a majority of the popular vote but Lincoln won a plurality with 1,866,452 votes or 40% of the total. Douglas was second with 1,376,957 votes or 29 %. Breckinridge got 849,781 or 18 % and Bell 588,879 or 13%. The electoral vote was more decisive. Lincoln won all of the northern states except New Jersey which was split between Lincoln and Douglas for a total of 180 electoral votes. Douglas, although second in popular votes was last in electoral votes winning only Missouri and three New Jersey votes for a total of 12. Breckinridge won all of the south except for the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia for a total of 72 votes. Bell won those three states and 39 electoral votes.

The Election of 1860

The Election of 1860

Stephen Douglas realized that a Lincoln victory would divide the country and immediately after the election he traveled south and gave speeches upholding the Union. It was of no avail, however, and a month after the election , on December 20 1860, South Carolina seceded from the Union and America’s bloodiest war began.


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