Saturday, July 31, 2010

They Were For It...Before They Were Against It

Isn't letting the Bush 2001 tax cut expire this year exactly the law that the GOP passed in 2001? I guess they were for it before they were against it. Sweet irony at the expense of the public good.

DON'T BLAME BOEHNER; HE JUST WORKS THERE.... President Obama hosted a meeting at the White House with the leadership of both parties, from both chambers, and the discussion reportedly turned to Bush's tax cuts. GOP leaders want all the cuts to remain in place, no matter how many billions of dollars it adds to the deficit. The president wants to keep the cuts for everyone except the very wealthy.

By all accounts, the chat wasn't especially constructive, but I was glad to see this exchange took place.

Mr. Obama, who did not join the Senate until 2005, reminded Mr. Boehner and the Senate Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, that the tax cuts' architects purposely left the deficit problem to a future administration, according to aides from both parties.

"I wasn't there," Mr. Boehner quickly countered. "I didn't structure that deal."

The room briefly went quiet as participants seemed to ponder that statement from a legislator first elected in 1990. "How long have you been here?," a Democrat asked Mr. Boehner, and the others broke out in laughter.

They're laughing at you, John, not with you.

It's a telling anecdote. The White House vision is to largely follow the game plan crafted by congressional Republicans less than a decade ago. It was the GOP's idea -- they passed tax cuts, which overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy, and set the cuts to expire at the end of 2010. The point was to obscure the cuts' cost, play a dangerous budget game, and make it so that the GOP wouldn't have to pay for their own experiment. We saw the results, which can only fairly be described as "total failure."

Obama is prepared to do part of what Republicans included in their own plan -- letting tax rates for those making more than $250,000 return to the same levels that existed when the economy was strong, as was outlined in the Republican plan of the Bush era. Reminded of whose idea this was in the first place, Boehner, in effect, argued that he has nothing to do with the plan he voted for, and which was crafted by his own caucus.

Indeed, Boehner was, at the time, responsible at the committee level for helping shape the tax-cut package, and was on hand at the White House for the bill-signing ceremony.

No wonder the room broke out in laughter.

As for the substance, Boehner told the president allowing the higher rates to return to pre-Bush levels would be bad for small businesses (small businesses that need some help, which Senate Republicans have blocked). As a policy matter, Boehner's argument is patently ridiculous, but the fact that he's pushing it in a private meeting confirms my suspicions -- Boehner actually believes his own nonsense, and isn't quite sharp enough to realize he doesn't know what he's talking about.

In the meantime, Boehner is also urging Republicans to stop referring to the Bush tax cuts as the Bush tax cuts. GOP members are supposed to fight for the failed former president's tax policy, but avoid using the failed former president's name.

They really do think voters are fools.
—Steve Benen, The Washington Monthly (

Monday, July 12, 2010

George Bailey, Socialist

A Letter to the Editor, Bedford Falls Tribune:

I am writing to you today as a patriotic American, one who values the traditional values of this nation and the Christian principles upon which it was founded – duty, hard work, and capitalism.  I have been a tireless champion of these core, conservative values throughout my stay here in Bedford Falls, and I believe that my status as a leader in the community demands that I shine a light on those who do not share these uniquely American qualities of character, and in fact, are working to destroy our way of life.  I am speaking about George Bailey, Socialist agitator and enemy of freedom.

We in this town are well acquainted with Mr. Bailey’s sorted history:
ü      As a child, he was an admitted drug runner for Old Man Gower, and his role in the near poisoning of one of the pharmacist’s clients has never been fully explained. 
ü      He was raised in what could be generously described as a “commune” run by his mother, no doubt a breeding ground for his future community organizing efforts.
ü      He proudly displays his posters and magazines about foreign lands, with a predilection for stories about Middle Eastern locales and exotic rituals.
ü      He has never been a regular churchgoer.  Sure, we know that on VE Day, he wept and prayed, and on VJ Day, he wept and prayed, but no one has seen him in a church since.
ü      He received a deferment from military service at exactly the time when his country most needed him, claiming some faulty hearing.  He certainly didn’t hear the cries of his countrymen, that’s for sure!
Of course, we would never mention it, but isn’t it interesting that his henchman, Uncle Billy, had a wife who died in the river under mysterious circumstances.

As a businessman, George Bailey’s behavior strikes at the very heart of all that we know to be right and good:
ü      He loaned money to cabbie Ernie Bishop (or “Ernie the Driver”), trapping him in the chains of debt from which he could never escape.
ü      He preached the evil philosophy of spreading the wealth around during the last bank run, falsely providing hope to the vulnerable masses at a time when they needed some tough fiscal talk, not flowery speeches about hope and persistence.
ü      He used his Building and Loan money to destroy the fabric of the Italian community.   When he pushed a loan on the illiterate Mr. Martini, he broke up a neighborhood and divided a culture to pursue his utopian fantasies.
He has been the Bedford Falls Piped Piper, playing a joyful tune while leading the huddled masses to their financial doom and a life of nanny state dependency, with the Almighty Building and Loan setting the rules.

When the goals of capitalism are abandoned, and the populace is not encouraged to maximize income and personal wealth, we empower a lazy working class, content with indoor plumbing and a picket fenced yard, but nothing more.  When consumption is discouraged, we all suffer.

Mr. Bailey’s emotionally tinged “we’re all in this together” rhetoric represents a danger to our children and a danger to our cherished values of rugged individualism and American exceptionalism.  It is only when we compete against each other that greatest is nourished and rises to the top.

And, in a final indignity, Mr. George Bailey received a bailout from the honest taxpayers of Bedford Falls, all while questions of his business accounting practices remain unanswered.  Has he no shame!

Help me end the evil reign of this Socialist-run-amok, and return our fair town to its’ roots of self-reliance and personal liberty.  If we do not act now, as Thomas Jefferson once said, “We shall not endure as a nation, without freedom, liberty and unregulated banking.”  (The Federalist Papers, Volume VIII, to James Madison).

God Bless America.

Henry F. Potter
Concerned American Patriot and Businessman

PS – We now offer Saturday banking hours for the convenience of our customers.

PPS - Did I mention his sexual harassment and subsequent hush money payments to the morally liberal Violet Biggs?


Thursday, July 8, 2010

How Old Are You Now?

If you didn’t know how old you were, how old would you be?

There are painful moments of absolute clarity in my life when I fully recognize just how old I actually have become.  No, I am not talking about my various birthdays, although those moments can count, too, particularly the day after.  Every physical and eye exam after the age of 40 counts, too.  I have more subtle reminders, equally as searing in my failing memory.  There was the first time I said to someone, “Hey, I’m not that old”, when of course, we all know that only people who ARE that old ever make that statement.  There was the time that I shared with some kid that I remember when Let It Be was the Beatles’ newest record, and he looked up at me with vacant eyes and barely vocalized one word in a hush, “Wow”.  I had another one of these moments recently.

I came home from the library (NOTE: going to the library does not make me feel old, although perhaps it should) with the authorized biography of one of my childhood heroes, Willie Mays.  The Say Hey Kid.  Greatest Living Ballplayer.  The prototypical 5 tool star (throw, run, catch, hit for power, hit for average).  Hundreds of pages and several pounds of baseball stories, recollections, and personalities.  I can’t wait to read it.  I walked past my 14 year old daughter, and teasingly told her, “You can read this when I’m finished.”  She looked at the cover, and coolly replied, “I don’t know him.  I know Billy Mays.  Is he related?”

  • If you do not know who Billy Mays is, feel free to detour and click here before continuing.  If you already know the work of Billy Mays, I am sorry to hear that.

Confusing Willie Mays Hayes, the iconic self-absorbed speedster from Major League (played by a young Wesley Snipes), with Willie Mays, I could have maybe handled with more grace.  Confusing my all-time favorite baseball star with the late TV pitchman, that hurts a little.

I am certain that my 1970s and 1980s perspective on life frustrated my elders from time to time as I grew up.  I probably confused Winston Churchill with Churchill Downs, and Yogi Bear with Yogi Berra.  It’s natural, I suppose, that we view all of life through the prism of the times in which we live.  It is the times when I realize that Willie Mays will someday be forgotten that I feel really old, though.

And a little pissed off, too, I might add.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Bipartisanship Fantasy?

From a recent Washington Post editorial, a glimmer of hope for statesmanship in a polarized world:

LAST WEEK House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) bravely suggested that Congress should consider a higher retirement age for Social Security and more careful targeting of benefits to the neediest, as part of a plan to get the country's long-term finances in order. Now House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) has had a common-sense outburst of his own on the issue. On Monday, he told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that he would favor raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, tying cost-of-living increases to the consumer price index rather than wage inflation and trimming benefits for retirees with substantial non-Social Security income. "We need to look at the American people and explain to them that we're broke," Mr. Boehner said. So there you have it: agreement in principle between leaders of the two parties in the House of Representatives on a key debt-reduction reform that was thought to be politically untouchable. Who says Washington is hopelessly polarized?

To be sure, Mr. Boehner leavened this comment with another, which Democrats are rightly ridiculing, to the effect that pending financial reform legislation amounts to a nuclear attack on an "ant." But that flap should not be allowed to detract from the wisdom of his statement on entitlements. Social Security is not as great a threat to the country's long-term solvency as it was before the last major reform in 1983, nor is it as great a threat as health-care costs. But it's not chopped liver, either. According to the Congressional Budget Office's latest projections, published Wednesday, Social Security costs are on course to increase by 1.4 percentage points of gross domestic product by 2035 -- largely due to the growth in the elderly population relative to the working-age population. The Social Security Trust Fund would be exhausted soon thereafter, the CBO reckons.

Total savings from raising the retirement age would depend on how Congress does it. Under current law, the retirement age is 65 for workers born before 1938, rises in two-month increments until hitting 66 for workers born in 1943, holds at 66 for workers born between 1944 and 1954 -- then rises again in two-month increments up to 67 for workers born in or after 1960. But suppose the age rose gradually to 67 for workers born between 1948 and 1953, and then continued increasing by two months per year until reaching 70 for workers born in 1971. The phase-in would avoid short-term harm to the economic recovery, give people plenty of time to adjust -- and shrink Social Security outlays by nearly 1 percentage point of GDP by 2035, according to the CBO. Tweaking the cost-of-living adjustment formula, as Mr. Boehner suggests, would take care of most of the rest of the program's projected growth.

In short, Mr. Boehner and Mr. Hoyer are talking about sensible adjustments that would achieve significant debt reduction at modest social cost. Needless to say, some were quick to exploit their comments for political purposes. Some Republicans, Mr. Boehner included, took aim at a separate part of Mr. Hoyer's speech in which Mr. Hoyer realistically discussed the need to raise revenue. For his part, House Democratic Whip James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.) accused Mr. Boehner of wanting to slash Social Security to "pay for George Bush's war and their failed policies of the past." The truth is that the course Mr. Boehner and Mr. Hoyer courageously support would not only help reduce the country's long-term debt but would also put Social Security on a sound financial footing for generations. Here's hoping they can work together to make it happen, against the inevitable pushback from within their respective caucuses.