Robert's Random Ravings

How serious are we about national debt?

This past election cycle saw a lot of talk about the need to reduce the federal budget deficit and the overall national debt. Of course, what we heard was mostly talk. We did not get a lot of specifics from either Democrats or Republicans. The Republicans published their Pledge to America. After reading it, I am left far from impressed.

The items that are addressed are a mere drop in the bucket compared to the $1 trillion dollar + budget deficit. Saving a few billion is not nearly enough. If our lawmakers are serious about reducing the debt and the deficit, real choices are going to have to be made.

The most obvious thing needed is to raise taxes. If we reduce the loopholes, enforce corporate taxation better and let the Bush tax cuts expire, it would make a significant dent in our annual deficit. Our current culture is vehemently anti-tax, however. So people want to continue spending more and bringing in less. I don’t think you need an MBA to know that this formula does not improve the deficit situation. That kind of thinking is what has left the State of California in such a fiscal mess.

Subsidies of various industries is another area that could be looked at. The amount of money spent to subsidize corn, sugar, energy exploration, and several other industries is obscene. We espouse a “free market” ideology, while at the same time we rig the market with artificial subsidies. Corn and sugar are probably the two biggest culprits. I realize that our farmers are very important and that they have to make a living. But it is not the job of the federal government to pay them. It always amazes me that the same people that yell about deregulation and free market also have their hands out collecting federal money. At the very least, the subsidies should be limited to families and not be used as handouts for large collectives (like Mansanto, etc.) I wonder just how much could be saved by the federal government if we re-evaluated the farm subsidies.

Another area that could use some reform is the “war on drugs.” It is a losing battle. The fight is not being won. Meanwhile, people are dying and hundreds of millions of dollars are being spent on enforcement that is impractical at best, as well as the incarceration of so called criminals who then get to live on the taxpayer’s dime. This “war” has clear racial overtones and is wasteful, harmful, and ultimately, completely unsuccessful. If we were to legalize marijuana in the US, it would be quite a boon to everyone. It would bring in tax dollars. It would reduce law enforcement budgets significantly. It would lessen the significant overcrowding of our jails and our justice system. I think it is a win-win. The people that want to smoke are going to do so, whether it is legal or not. I am completely unconvinced about any real harm in the recreational use of pot. [Clearly – that is my opinion and others will think differently – but let’s at least have a legitimate conversation]

With the current group in power trying to extend the tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans (the same Americans that have bled the rest of us dry over the last few years in the economic disaster that hit most of the country) is bad policy. It is unjust – even immoral. We end up cutting programs to the people that are most in need so that the people that are least in need can have a higher stack of bills to roll around in.

I am not suggesting that we take a Robin Hood approach. Rich people deserve to enjoy the fruits of their labor. But that should not be at the expense of the ones that cannot afford it. They should pay their fair share. Their income and capital gains should be taxed without loopholes, just like it is for the rest of us. Corporation that do business in the United States should pay taxes on the income generated in the United States. Moving your offices to Bermuda to avoid taxation is a true travesty and perversion of corporate responsibility.

There are so many real things that our Congress can do to benefit all of us. It’s time that they started worrying about that more than getting re-elected.

I have no problem with Americans saying “throw the bums out.” It is our right. We express ourselves through the voting booth. I may be unhappy with the result of this past election, but I believe in our system. I wish more people participated – that’s for sure. I wish the disinformation campaigns were not allowed. I wish that people that put out and pay for political advertisements did not have the ability to do so anonymously. I wish that the Supreme Court had not opened the flood gates of corporate spending on elections. But this is the system we have and as we make mistakes, it is incumbent upon us and our leaders to correct them.

I suggest to everyone that they make themselves a part of the process. Write to, call or visit your congressional delegation. They should be interested in hearing from you. If they are not, maybe it is time to back someone else.

Most importantly, let’s engage in a serious debate – not a shrill shouting match. No one wins when we do that.

Advertisements

11/12/2010 Posted by | General, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Can’t we all just get along?

Tomorrow is the 2010 midterm elections (finally!!). I know that I will be glad to see it done with. The tone of the elections has been so negative – it seems to get more and more so each election cycle. Billions of dollars are being spent nationwide to elect Governors, Senators, State Representatives and scores of other government officials. But at the end of the day, what will really have been accomplished?

The Tea Party is a recent movement that seems to be riding on a groundswell of dissatisfaction with the federal government. People are supposedly tired of Washington and its inability to actually listen to the citizens and do what they need done. The Tea Party is not alone in this. I am not a tea-partier, but I am also very dissatisfied with the direction of the federal government and the state government here in Texas.

I voted for Obama in the 2008 presidential election. I was hopeful that it would be the start of a new day in Washington. Of course, the minute President Obama got elected, the Republicans started to march in lockstep in total and complete opposition to any and everything that Obama’s administration tried to do. Obama is far from perfect. Don’t get me wrong. But what do you think might have been accomplished if the Democrats and Republicans had decided to work together to fix the things that are wrong in our country as opposed to making sure their own party retains power? There is something seriously wrong with a system that encourages little more than a 24/7/365 election cycle. Our Senators and Representatives are supposed to work for us – “we the people.” Not the other way around.

When I see candidates on both sides slinging mud at each other instead of telling me what their plans/ideas are, I am disgusted. When I see gross misrepresentation and outright lies used in campaign commercials, it literally sickens me to my stomach. Unfortunately, both parties are guilty of this.

At any rate, after this election is over and the counts are in, it is likely that, at the very least, the House of Representatives will become a Republican majority. It is possible, though not nearly as likely, that the Senate, too, will pass into Republican control. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next 2 years. Will the Republicans continue to be the party of No? Will they continue to oppose any proposals that come from the President or the Democrats (even when they include ideas they themselves used to champion), without actually making proposals of their own? Will there be any fresh ideas on either side of the political spectrum?

Unfortunately, I think we will see more of the same. With the Republicans in power, we will probably see the Democrats start using a lot of the same obstructionist tactics that the Republicans have used over the last 2 years. Instead of taking the hint from a sea change that the people of America want to see a balance in government and all sides working for the betterment of the country, we will probably see more entrenchment and bickering. This simply cannot continue.

I don’t care if you are a Democrat or a Republican. We are Americans first and that should be our concern, not a political party. We have pushed too much to the extremes in both major parties and it is leaving the moderates (both liberal and conservative) in the dust. Let’s hold our elected officials accountable for representing our interests – not the interests of their allies/supporters/friends. Public office should not be a get rich quick scheme. It is service to the public. I think it is high time we demanded that level of service from our elected officials.

11/01/2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Republican Party – What is it thinking?

I am beginning to get really disgusted with the way things are going on Capitol Hill now. The Republican Party is busy crying out against a power grab by the White House. They seem to think that President Obama wants to do an end-run around the Constitution and violate the law by having the Director of the Census Bureau report directly to the White House. This position reports to the Commerce Secretary. As anyone reading this may know, the nominee for Commerce Secretary, Republican Senator Judd Gregg, withdrew his nomination for the post, citing “irresolvable conflicts” between his ideology and that of the President.

Gregg was part of President Obama’s attempts to reach out across party lines and include Republicans in his Cabinet. But it seems that the Republican Party is more concerned with thwarting any and all efforts of the new President than it is in actually helping resolve the problem.

The idea of a Republican outcry against a Presidential “power grab” is so ironic. We have spent the last 8 years watching President Bush redefine the role of President and grab as much power as possible for the Executive Branch of the government. No one was crying out against the power grab then.

The Bush Administration inherited a country that was growing very rapidly. We were adding jobs by the hundreds of thousands. We had a budget surplus. Now we have lost over 3 million jobs in the last year, and had a budget deficit of more than $1 trillion last year. That is a number so large that most people probably cannot even conceive of it. I know that I can’t.

Reducing taxes is NOT the solution. Putting up roadblocks and crying that Obama is trying to turn us into a Socialist or Communist state is not the answer. The answer is working together. The answer is NEW ideas, not recycling old ones.

Get with it Congress. Get with it Republican Party. We, the people, are tired of your games, and tired of your vitriol. We want to live our lives in peace and harmony. We do not want to be told that “if you don’t do this, the result is catastrophe.” The economics of fear is so last century. We are in a time where we need hope, not fear. If you are not part of the solution, you need to get out of the way. Pointing out that something is wrong is not helpful unless you can help with a solution to the problem. President Obama is trying to solve problems that were not even of his making. Give him and his plans a chance. They certainly cannot leave us any worse off than the previous 8 year administration has.

02/13/2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Abortion – the great conflict

Let’s talk about one of the third rails of modern politics: abortion. Obviously there is quite a cultural war in our country now about the topic. Some people look at it as a form of murder, while others look at it as something that woman should be able to decide for themselves – a women’s rights issue. Of course, religious belief factors into this as well. Many Christians and Catholics are against abortion (or as they like to say – “pro-life”). Much of the liberal left is pro-abortion (or as they like to say – “pro-choice”).

It is a difficult issue too. I personally struggle with which side of this debate I am on. I don’t like abortion. I think it is a terrible waste. But I also am not ready to say that abortion should be made illegal in the US. People are going to get abortions, whether it is legal or not. With that in mind, I would prefer that woman can get it done (if they must) in a safe setting, as opposed to a clandestine, underground setting that can be very dangerous (or trying to use a coat hanger or something awful like that).

One thing we need a lot more of in this country is education on the topic. As I said before, it is not really as simple as “I am for it” or “I am against it.”

I often wonder about the people that say that it should be against the law, except in the case of rape or danger to the mother. See, that means that they are not 100% against it. If you really are against abortion, I would think that there would not be any exceptions.

I would like to see a real discussion in this country about the topic – not one laced with threats and fear. An educated discussion, free of emotion. Just the facts. That is very necessary (and not just for the topic of abortion).

Even those people that feel that it is a woman’s choice and believe that it should be legal struggle with it when it comes to their own bodies. I doubt there are many people that could have an abortion and not have any regrets about it. Whether you believe in your mind that a fetus is a real person or not, your heart will still probably feel that it is. I think it is only human to feel that way.

At any rate, anyone that is considering getting one should definitely have to go through a bit of a process to get it done. I really don’t think that you should be able to decide today that you want one, walk into an office tomorrow, and have the procedure done. There should be people trying to talk you out of it all the way. There really are other options.

In addition, one of the things that I hear a lot with regard to abortion is that it is a woman’s body and therefore a woman’s choice. Well – guess what. It takes a woman and a man to make a baby. I have a lot of trouble saying that a woman should have the right to an abortion without the consent of the father. I know that will not make me a popular person with many of my liberal friends, but it is the way I feel. I have even more trouble with a minor being able to get one without the knowledge of her parents. That is hypocritical to me. A minor cannot legally enter into a contract, so why should they be able to get an abortion without parental consent?

All that being said, once a couple has decided that their choice is to have an abortion (after attempts to dissuade), I do think it should be allowed. Just because I do not like it does not mean it should be against the law. At that point, it is something that they will have to deal with in their hearts and minds. I definitely think it is important that people that do decide to go through with it have a safe environment in which to do the procedure. That also means being spared the taunts of people at clinics that will throw words and more at people as they go into a clinic. That is not the way to deal with the situation! America is so devoid of compassion at times. I would definitely like to see it return.

01/29/2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment