Tuesday, September 20, 2011
In his last few speeches, President Obama has stressed the fact that many of his current proposals have, in the past, been supported – and even actively promoted – by both Democrats and Republicans. Today’s Republicans, though they may call on the name of Ronald Reagan as if his name was a magical incantation – would be horrified to know that Reagan, by his words and actions, would have agreed with President Obama more than he would have disagreed with him on these issues.
The upgrading and improvement of infrastructure – roads, bridges, ports, intermodal transfer facilities, and rail – was a cornerstone of the 1980 and 1984 Republican campaign platforms. After the economic ‘malaise’ of the 1970s, Buffalo Republican Quarterback-turned-Congressman Jack Kemp articulated a ‘new’ economic policy – one that emphasized government facilitation of business transactions (hence, “Supply” Side Policy," since it was aimed at the suppliers of goods and services rather than the consumers of said services). The theory was that by improving the nation’s infrastructure, businesses would be able to move goods and services in a more efficient, cost-effective manner, thus raising both profit margins and confidence in an economy that was sluggish at best. All one had to do was look at the effect of the Interstate Highway System, authorized under Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, to see the effect on businesses which could now ship goods from Boston to New York in 4 hours rather than two days along the old U.S. Route 1. Fortunately for the Republicans, they garnered the support of many Democrats, who supported the idea not for its effect on business, but because, following traditional Keynesian spending theory, it would put shovels in labor’s hands and put them to work. Intermodal Transit facilities, HOV lanes and E-ZPass all became part of our vocabulary.
By the end of Reagan’s 8 years in office, grants to states for highway and infrastructure construction were 28% higher than when Reagan took office. Jack Kemp and Bronx Democrat Robert Garcia co-introduced federal legislation establishing protocols for Enterprise Zones to revive blighted neighborhoods, making millions of infrastructure project dollars available to states for projects, including parking facilities, rail facilities, and highway interchanges. Even when Reagan wanted to pull back on infrastructure spending, Republicans in the House and Senate turned against him and, with Democratic support, overrode their own President’s veto of the Surface Transportation and Uniform Relocation Assistance Act of 1987 (STURAA). This bipartisan policy continued through George H.W. Bush and Clinton, becoming a fixture of the American economic engine…and a piece of economic machinery supported by both political parties.
But somehow, today’s bunch of Republican extremists see this legacy only as “overspending." At a time when both natural disasters and deferred maintenance have destroyed or closed important transportation infrastructure, it is time for them to stop playing politics.
On Tax Policy, Obama has suggested a flattening of the overall tax brackets (part of the 1980, 1984, and 1988 Republican Party Platforms), as well as taxing investment income at the same rate as everyone else’s income. Currently, if you earn $100,000 from working at your job, you pay tax on the full $100,000. However, if you make $100,000 by buying and selling stocks, you only get taxed on 28% of your earnings – or $28,000. In one way, the Republicans are right – Tax policy *has* been used as class warfare: those who labor get taxed, those who sit back and place buy and sell orders with their online broker (and who produce *nothing* for the society) get taxed at far lower levels.
We have subsidized gambling by the wealthy on the backs of the laborer.
The biggest fallacy in the GOPs mock horror at Obama’s proposed tax changes is their assertion that these investments are good for business, and that taxing investment is bad for job creation. But there is nothing to show that those making money off of stock trading are creating jobs. Rather, they are hoarding the funds or simply continuing to trade ever-increasing amounts of wealth to amass more personal wealth.
In reality, most of what qualifies as 'investment’ and ‘capital' is neither. The vast majority of capital gains do NOT come from investing in a business, or from gains of capital provided to a company for expansion. MOST capital gains come simply from stockholders buying and holding stock from other stockholders. Such a purchase provides ZERO additional dollars to a business. It is simply another form of absentee landlord rent-seeking. Such “investors” generally do not participate in the corporations decision-making, governance, hiring, or expansion decisions. They use their wealth to purchase stock in a quick online transaction, follow it for a while (checking the price somewhere during the commercials on Dancing With The Stars), and ignore everything except how their ‘investment’ – which was purchased from another such ‘investor,’ not from the company – is doing. When the time is right, they access their account and hit the sell button…and make instant cash.
They produce nothing. They hire no one. They create nothing. They provide no expansion possibilities for businesses.
But they amass personal wealth. And yet, we treat them with kid gloves by taxing them less, at 28% the rate what we would tax someone who spends all day working and creating valuable goods and services in the economy.
Tax treatment that values gambling over the creation of goods and services, and that values 'wealth making wealth' rather than actual labor, is indeed class warfare, Mr. Boehner. It’s the class warfare that is destroying the middle class and rewarding a cadre of wall street elites that have you in their hip pocket.
Monday, May 10, 2010
The Supreme Court of the United States ("SCOTUS") occupies a role at the heart and soul of American society. As a co-equal branch of government, the Court has consistently been willing to act where Constitutional duty required, but where political strength was weak. The end of the Seperate but Equal doctrine, the right of adults to purchase birth control, the right of those uttering offensive speech to continue to exercise that right, have all been secured by the Court when politicians lacked the spines to do so. By choosing jurists and scholars in love with The Law itself, the great 'American Experiment' has lasted and been strengthened because of the vigilence of an institution that can weather the inflamed but fading passions of mob rule.
From 1900 to approximately 1969, Court nominees were afforded respect by both sides of the aisle. In that time frame, 28 Justices were approved unanimously by voice vote. One was rejected. And only 13 were confirmed with a smattering of 'nay' votes.
It is interesting to note that in that time period, the opposition to some of those Justices would later prove an embarassment:
Louis Brandeis, one of the most brightest legal scholars in the Court's history, was confirmed in 1916 by an unusual "split' vote of 47-22. It is shameful to think now that the nay votes were at least in part generated because he was first Jew nominated the High Court.
Similarly, Thurgood Marshall - the Court's first African-American - would be approved by a split vote of 69-11 in 1967.
When Hugo Black received 16 "no" votes in 1937, it was largely due to rumors (later confirmed) that he had been a member of the Klan in his earlier years. Even those 'no' votes were bipartisan, however, consisting of 10 Republicans and 6 Democrats.
All in all, prior to 1969, 41 of 42 nominees were confirmed....28 (fully 2/3 of them)unanimously.
In the modern era, however, we have chosen to reverse this approach, and we have turned most Court confirmations into a political fight. Between 1969 and today, 19 nominations have been made to the nation's highest Court. Of these, 3 were rejected (Bork, Carswell, and Haynesworth); 1 withdrew from nomination (Harriet Miers in 2005); 10 were confirmed on split votes; and only FIVE (barely one-quarter) were confirmed unanimously. And those five were all before 1987 - over 20 years ago.
We somehow have come to the conclusion in the last few decades that Court appointees should be instruments of Political Doctrine, rather than impartial judges of the Law, and so interest groups from all sides raise funds and wage battle over almost every nominee. Both the Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty of this warfare, and both should be ashamed, as qualified, professional, brilliant judges have received 'no' votes simply based on partisan ideology. Conservatives needlessly withheld 31 votes from Justice Sonia Sotomayor, an eminently qualified Jurist, just as liberals withheld 42 votes from Justice Samuel Alito, Jr. on political grounds.
The question before the Senate should not be, "Will this person further our party's legislative agenda?" The question should be, "Is this person qualified to analyze complicated fact patterns and impart sound legal reasoning to actual cases in a way that brings honor the nation's Highest Court?"
By that standard, Kagan is qualified. End of Discussion. Republicans should assent to her confirmation, and reverse the modern trend towards "getting one of ours in."
Once confirmed, I will admit that there is one aspect of the Court's make-up that does raise a flag, and that is the lack of anyone from a protestant background on the court. In a large way, this is indicative of changes in American Society, and from that perspective it is a positive development. On the other hand, depending on the survey quoted, protestants still comprise about 50% of the population. Now, I pesonally do not believe in 'group' politics; I judge induividuals as individuals. But the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor last year began an interesting debate.
Justice Sotomayor was criticized for the following comment she had made:
"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life..."
What Justice Sotomayor suggested is that we are *all* a product of our backgrounds, and bring that background to the table with us. Often, that background gives us insights that others with differing backgrounds might not as readily understand.
I defended her remarks then, and continue to do so now. And so, I believe I am consistent when I suggest that a nation that has many, many devout Protestants may feel unrepresented because the insight that their particular background contributes may not find a voice on the Court. It is a legitimate concern.
But I am forced to wonder how many liberals who defended the 'wise latina' comment will simply dismiss protestant or evangelical concerns as lacking merit.
And I wonder how many conservative protestants who will now lament the loss of a 'protestant perspective' on the bench were willing to raise their voices in agreement when a wise latina woman offered the same arguement as they do now.
Of course, one could simply defend Sotomayor and criticize evangelicals - or vice versa - based on political positioning...an approach that will only perpetuate the destructive politicization of the Judical confirmation process. Better to recognize our diversity and differences and strive for balance...but to confirm Justice nominees based solely on qualifications.
Friday, January 29, 2010
The Problem: The gay community is (pick one: annoyed, frustrated, outraged) at the slow pace of the Obama administration in delivering on campaign promises. The only serious legal challenge to DADT is being waged by the Log Cabin Republicans, and the Obama Justice Department is defending DADT in homophobic language. If the Log Cabin wins, the Republicans can make legitimate inroads into the formerly-solidly Democratic gay community. If they lose, the Obama administration will be blamed. Either way, Obama and the Democrats LOSE.
1) Obama proposes a Freeze on federal spending.
2) Obama cuts a deal with the Pentagon that he will exempt the Defense budget from that freeze, if they will accept DADT.
3) Pentagon generals lukewarmly support DADT at Congressional hearings.
4) DADT repeal is embedded in the Defense budget. Conservative Republicans dont like to oppose defense budgets. Liberal Democrats see a way to end DADT. Differences in the Defense budget can be reconciled by the House-Senate Conference Committee, and passed by a simple majority, thus thwarting GOP efforts to filibuster now that Scott Brown is "the Forty-First."
5) With DADT repealed, the Federal Courts must throw out the lawsuit filed by the Log Cabin Republicans against DADT as it is now moot.
6) Obama claims that he and the Dems have saved the day for the GLBT community.
7) Obama then back tracks with Fundamentalists and reiterates his support for DOMA and for the idea that marriage should be reserved for "one-man-one-woman."
8) Gay Activists applaud Obama for ending DADT, dismiss the GOP, and ask the gay grass roots to "give Obama time" on DOMA. Gay money and votes continue to flow to the Democrats in lemming-like fashion.
Anyone wanna place bets?