Monday, December 6, 2010

An Open Leader to President Obama: Fight For Us

Mr. President,

Last year, you were asked a very pointed question by a woman who wanted you to give us a reason to follow you. You gave her your normal policy answer, but it is now clear you missed the point she was trying to make. You didn't get what she was trying to tell you. The result was the 2010 Election. Mr. President, we need you to lead.

One has to ask why a President who has passed as much significant legislation as you have is viewed so weakly. It is easy to blame the right wing media, but it really isn't about them. President Clinton found a way to get through the Echo Chamber with positive marks, even today. He didn't pass half the landmark legislation you have in two years, so what's going on?

The defining moment was on health care reform. It is where you lost your base and your independents. You told us that we would change Washington. You told us that we could change the world. You told us that things would be different. You told us that we wouldn't be helpless to profit hungry corporations, but we would be given choices to bring them in check. And then you compromised. We didn't get what you told us was the key to all those things: A Public Option.

Health Care Reform was something that could have been passed in two months before Senator Kennedy died with a Public Option. Instead, it dragged on for month after month after month, and you sat on the sideline publicly. I am sure you and the White House was working behind the scenes to make a deal to get it done, but none of us ever saw it. And yes, we looked. The Public Option is where you lost your mojo.

Democrats lost 2010 because of two reasons: You failed to lead them on health care reform and lead the American people through the economic troubles; and the Democrats were so busy reading polls trying to figure things out that they couldn't even take a stand on the most basic of policies of tax cuts before the election. Those two things tell us, the American people, that neither you nor the Democratic Party wants to lead.

As we had to Christmas, we see votes on tax cuts that Democrats know will fail for the sake of taking votes. It would make sense if there was a strategy to get the votes and then use them to publicly pressure Republicans with a PR strategy to get what you want. Instead, we got how you were "disappointed" but that is all you ever get.

Mr. President, maybe you aren't getting it. We want you to lead by fighting for those ideals you put forth in your campaign. They weren't just ideals to be compromised on. That would be the way Washington has always worked. We didn't vote for doing things the same way Washington always has worked. We voted to change how Washington works. You were fired up and ready to go, but we haven't seen you fired up over anything since you took office.

Mr. President, there are defining moments. For President Bush 41, it was raising taxes. For President Reagan, it was telling the Soviet Union to tear down a wall. For President Clinton, it was standing up to Republicans and shutting down the government over Social Security. What will be your defining moment?

You need to pick one and make it. We need you to pick one and fight for it. Whether it is insisting that unemployment benefits and each tax bracket be passed as separate bills to be voted on separately; whether it is a public option; whether it is a new stimulus bill; whether it is deficit reduction; no matter what it is, pick something and fight for us. Show us what is important to you.

Don't be "disappointed." Do something. Fire a shot across the bow. Use your Veto. Spend a week talking about nothing but one issue in strong terms instead of soft policy nuances.

If you want your base back. If you want your independents back. Stand up and fight for us. Stand up and show us how you are making Washington about us, not about deals and compromises. Show us how you are making America better for us and not business as usual.

Until you stand up and fight for us, you may be on your way to being a one term President who will have your accomplishments simply repealed.

The Tea Party gained power not because everyone believed in it. Heck, the platform is hardly coherent. The Tea Party was about the government caring about us and doing things for us instead of business as usual. The Tea Party was nothing more than the far right Ron Paul Libertarians and Paleoconservatives appealing to the independents who voted for you not because they agree in ideology but because you didn't stand up and fight for the things you said you would.

Mr. President, it is time to get off the sidelines. You should have started fighting for us two years ago. But if you don't start now, you will have started too late.

Simply put: Mr. President, Fight For Us.

Fed Trying to Grow Economy, Republicans say Focus on Deficits, Actions say otherwise

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke spoke on the economy in a 60 Minutes interview about the economy, explaining the concern about long term job growth and the need for more economic support to boost the system.

Bernanke explained the Federal Reserve will continue to boost easing efforts because the federal government has sent the signal it will focus on deficit reduction instead of additional stimulatory efforts. By focusing on deficit reduction, the American public can rest assured the job growth outlook will not improve anytime soon. Deficit reduction means policies designed to save money, not to get money flowing through the economy which is what creates jobs.

Bernanke's comments seem to indicate the federal government needs to do more for the recovery, not less. The problem is the deficit has grown so large it is difficult to deal with for most Americans. The numbers are larger than they could have imagined.

It is similar to the Reagan era, where a debt topping $1 trillion was unimaginable. Yet, Reagan's budgets increased the debt 180% in eight years. We got used to it. Similarly, politicians ran on deficit reduction, but did little work to honestly cut it. The insistence on passing tax cuts costing $700 billion for the richest among us indicates the same is true today.

The mistake was made a decade ago, and we will be struggling to overcome it for decades to come. When deficits are run up, they need to be paid off. In 2000, American voters decided they did not want to pay off that debt. They made the choice to take a tax cut and ignore the debt, leaving it for future generations. Today, we have far less flexibility to deal with the economy because of those voting decisions.

We made our bed. Now we have to lay in it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Tax Deal: What Does It Say About the GOP and To Our Kids?

For many people in America, they can be thankful this holiday season that there is an apparent deal in the works to deal with unemployment benefits and tax cuts. During an economically troubling time, generally speaking, tax increases or cuts of things like unemployment benefits can be economically troubling.

However, it does show somethings that are significant:

First, the claims of focus on the deficit by the Republicans during election season were a token campaign promise at best. They are about to agree to maintain $700 billion in debt for the top bracket of tax cuts, while adding to spending by extending unemployment benefits. Deficits should not be the primary focus during economic troubling times, but it does show the dishonesty of the Republican's approach.

Second, it shows how Republicans think of the richest among us. They have held hostage tax cuts for everyone else and unemployment benefits for those who are unemployed in hard economic times (not lazy people, but people who are simply struggling to find a job). They seem to believe that the rich are struggling too, and that those making over $250k and $1 million per year need lower taxes as much as those who can't find jobs need unemployment benefits to survive. That much is evident as they held up Democrat bills that have renewed unemployment benefits and tax cuts for everyone under both of those levels.

Republicans ran on the idea of all deficits are passing on the costs to future generations for today. I can understand the ideas of running deficits for people to keep them from starving to death and spending the winter on the streets in the cold.

I have to wonder how they explain to their children why they are going to pay $700 billion plus interest on future debt so the richest among us can pay 3% less in taxes.