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Is Egypt proving the Bush Doctrine Correct?

January 31, 2011

In the wake of the uprising in Egypt, I was reminded of the Bush Doctrine.  Is the situation in Egypt proving the Bush Doctrine to be correct?  If you can remember, there are many parts of the Bush Doctrine (pre-emptive strikes, seeking out terrorism around the world before they strike, preventing countries from aiding terror organizations, etc.).  However, the aspect of the doctrine most pertinent for today’s situation, and probably most theoretical, is the belief that Democracy spreads throughout a region once planted.

Since the toppling of Saddam Hussein and his regime in Iraq, we have seen other countries’ people begin to rise up and demand more freedom in their own country.  Could it be, after all the criticism of George W. Bush and the Bush Doctrine, that he could be right?  Regardless of what you believe abut motivations for invading Iraq, it is clear that the people of Iraq are better off under democracy, however imperfect it may be.  Since then, we have seen uprisings in Iran, Lebanon, Tunisia, and now Egypt.  What country could be next?

If you believe that freedom is the natural condition in which mankind was meant to live and thrive, it only makes sense that people would strive to obtain freedom from an oppressive government regime.  If people of those other countries see the rise in freedom politically, religiously, and economically, why would they not believe that they can achieve the same in their own country?

It is important for the United States to make it clear that we stand with people around the world wishing to achieve  democracy and increased freedom in their country.  However, in some places where there is danger of a terrorist regime takeover, it is important for countries around the world to be standing by with support and pressure to ensure relatively fair/free elections, and a violence free transfer of power.  These are very delicate situations, but it’s most important to send a clear message to people around the world, that if you are willing to work toward democracy, the United States stands with you.

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Right Turn Signals – State of the Union Address

January 28, 2011

With the President’s State of the Union address earlier this week, he put on his right turn signal, but is he turning?  The President loves to use these automotive analogies (Republicans can’t drive, put the car in D, Republicans have to sit in the back, all very cute), so being a car guy myself, I decided to make one of my own.  With the “shlacking” in November, there has been much talk and even some movement of President Obama to the right on the ideological scale.  It is clear to me after hearing the State of the Union, that President Obama has turned on his right turn signal, but he’s not making a right turn.

President Obama spoke of our need to reign in spending, which is good.  But what did he actually say?  He said he would push for a spending freeze.  Sure a spending freeze would help, but that’s not cutting spending.  That’s keeping it where it is.  No effect on the deficit.  In fact, Obama spent a good part of his speech talking about “investing” in energy, science, electric cars, high-speed rail, infrastructure, etc.  Sounds a lot like spending, and spending a lot.  President Obama spoke about the economy and our struggle in international competition and our continued recovery from recession, but he listed these new investments as the way out.  Certainly these are important things, but these things are not going to have an immediate effect as we try to recover from recession.  People want to know what were going to do now!  After all, I think President Obama has lost some credibility on the spending issue after spending so much on stimulus packages in his first two years.  With turn signal on, Obama wants to appeal to the vast majority of people who want our fiscal house in order, but listen closely and I don’t think we should expect spending cuts from the President anytime soon.

To be fair, Obama did have some examples of spending cuts, and said he was ready to work with Republicans on further spending cuts.  However, he immediately went back to defending his “investments”.  So are we freezing spending, or cutting spending, or (what will probably happen) cut spending in some areas and “invest” with spending in others?  These examples seemed like an after thought to his spending freeze idea.  Not a main policy for the future.  Another fake to the right?  Maybe.

Along with spending, is the issue of the new Health Care Reform package, repealed by the House, but unlikely to be picked up for a vote in the Senate.  Again, Obama tried to sound fiscally responsible by citing the CBO report that we will be saving a few hundred billion dollars by keeping the reform.  If you read my last post, you know that his numbers come from the CBO reporting that over the next ten years the government will collect $770B in new taxes, while spending $540B on the new healthcare entitlement.  Everyone knows that’s not saving money, that’s increasing spending and increasing taxes more.

He also spoke about his regulation review to help business.  However, he failed to mention all the exceptions to that (healthcare reform and financial reform).  Again, a policy that sounds right of center, sounds common sense, and is appealing to the vast majority of the American people.  But with these major exceptions, can you really say he’s moving to the right and is pursuing these policies whole-heartedly?

As President Obama listed these spending/economic policies and praised last year’s tax cuts, it was clear he was trying to strike a different cord with the American people and appearing more as a centrist.  He also spoke many times about the need for bipartisan cooperation.  But has he ever really cooperated with Republicans?   Again, it sounds good, but doesn’t have the track record to back it up.

Obama did lay out plans for things that I would applaud.  Tax policy simplification, continued efforts in the War on Terror, and the ending of the 1099 small business bookkeeping regulation are all things I think everyone can be behind.  But let’s not be fooled into thinking Obama is moving to the right.  He may have his right turn signal on, but I don’t think he’s going to be making right turns anytime soon.

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The True Cost of Health Care Reform

January 21, 2011

We have heard countless arguments about the true cost of Health Care Reform from both Republicans and Democrats this past week, mostly revolving around cost.

Rep: Obamacare will cost too much!                  Dem: The CBO says it saves money!

Whose correct?  At first glance you might say, “well the Congressional Budget Office is non-partisan and they do the homework, so the Democrats must be right.”  Tempting, but you would  have to declare yourself incorrect after examining the CBO report.  As Charles Krauthammer points out in his recent article, “Why Everything Starts with Repeal”, the CBO is required to assume all costs and tax increases for the next ten years, do the simple arithmetic, and show the difference.  That being the case, here is the truth:  By adding 32 Million people to subsidized health insurance from 2014-2020, it will cost $540B.  However, by raising taxes from 2010-2020, it will raise $770B, leaving an excess of $230.  Is that really saving money?

That would be like taking out a loan today for $70k to buy a car three years from now that only costs $30k, and can only be driven for six years, then telling everyone you saved $40k on buying a new car.  It’s irresponsible, intellectually dishonest, and dangerous for a U.S. treasury that’s already in the whole $13 trillion.

Without using any of the numbers it just doesn’t make sense that we would add millions more people to subsidized insurance, and think we are going to save money on that deal. It’s also naive to think that Congress won’t immediately spend any access money on pork projects and other legislation.  Not to mention the negative effects of raising taxes drastically to cover this cost in an already devastated economy.  This will kill jobs.  To look at this situation honestly and to say that were going to be saving money is simply to deny common sense and Congress’s track record of being able to spend money responsibly.   You cannot spend money to save money.

There are a myriad of reasons to support repealing Obamacare.  The massive federal power grab, the insurance mandate, the bureaucracy, loss and shortage of doctors, lack of quality care, health care rationing, etc.  But when it comes to the cost, there should be no argument.  Obamacare will cost more and will hurt the economy with the massive tax increases needed to pay for it.

We can all agree that changes need to be made in the industry, but this isn’t it.  The American people have spoken time and time again for a different direction.  I certainly hope the Republicans and those that Democrats that follow will be successful in repealing (or defunding), then replacing with free-market, common sense approaches that don’t raise taxes and grow our economy through competition.  That’s how you become prosperous while increasing access to health care.

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Obama Concedes Regulation Hurts Business

January 19, 2011

In the wake of President Obama’s announcement today to examine regulations to strengthen our economy, Obama has conceded that regulation hurts business.  Today President Obama initiated through executive order a  review to “make sure we avoid excessive, inconsistent, and redundant regulation.”  This marks the second of two major concessions by President Obama since the November elections.  First, during the tax-cut debate during the lame duck session, he conceded that tax cuts are essential for economic growth and recovery.  Now, either in an effort to appear more centrist or win back support from business leaders, he has admitted that government regulation in many ways hurts the business environment.  It also follows, therefore, that bigger government equals more regulation to slow business growth and the economy.  Is this not the same administration who speaks of de-regulation as a major cause of the economic downturn we are now facing?  If de-regulation is the key to economic recovery, and I think it partly is, why wouldn’t the administration try that first before billions of deficit spending tax dollars were wasted in a failed stimulus package?  This marks another victory for conservatives and Republicans, but more importantly, I applaud the administration because I think this is the right thing to do.

For decades we have heard from those on the left, and more recently from the Obama administration, that de-regulation from the Bush administration caused the economic downturn. Even in Obama’s first two years in office, more regulation has been his answer for many problems (financial reform, health care reform, cap and trade, the seemingly endless list of Administrative Czars).  Now, and thank goodness, he seems to be changing his tune, acknowledging the fact that extensive government regulation hurts the business environment.

Although this is a great step in the right direction, Obama made it clear that Health Care Reform and Financial Reform would be exempt for the regulation review.  So basically, as I see it, the administration is saying this: “We realize excessive regulation hurts the economy, so we are going to examine what regulation we can cut, but not any of the regulation that we have put in place or gives us more power.”  This is similar to liberal’s attitude toward Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.  People like John McCain and even the Bush Administration pushed for more regulation to ensure Fannie and Freddie weren’t taking on too many risky loans.  However, people like Barney Frank, and even then Senator Obama, spoke out and voted against more regulation, leading to the mortgage crisis.  Obama’s history of attitudes toward regulation can be summed up as follows: if your a private industry we need to control your activities, if your already government organization controlled by the administration or congress and can be used to gain power, no oversight needed.

Is Obama’s attitude changing with this announcement today?  Is he trying to move to the center like Clinton?  Is he trying to get back on the good side of Wall Street and the business community? It’s hard to know.  It’s clear that Obama’s success as a President, and his hope for a second term, lie in the success of the economy.  If he were really serious about changing his attitude toward regulation, he would include all regulation, not just that not implemented by his administration.  Again, I applaud the effort at de-regulation, but if your serious about getting government out of the way of the economy, examine all policy, all regulations, in all departments.  In any event, the administration has conceded in the national debate about the role of government in regulating the economy, that excessive regulation of an increasingly larger government stifles economic growth.

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GOP Starts Repeal Effort

January 17, 2011

After postponing the debate after the shooting in Tuscon, this week the GOP starts its repeal effort on Health Care Reform.  As a major campaign promise last fall, it is clear that the GOP needs a victory on this issue.  The most important thing is that the majority of the American people support repeal at some level, at least making changes to the law.  This is evident in political polling from a variety of polling institutions, but was also evident through last years election, which was largely a referendum on the new health care legislation.

Some polls do show support of repeal of the legislation easing.  I think this is because people are now experiencing the parts of the law that everyone can agree on (pre-existing conditions, children on their parents insurance till 26, etc. )  But it remains clear that the American people want changes in this legislation.  People realize that there are good things about this new law that everyone can agree on.  This can be good for the GOP if they make it fit the narrative of their Pledge to America, “repeal and replace”.

Also, joining the GOP, are a number of Democrat representatives who have made it clear they are ready to work with GOP members to see parts of the health care law changed.  Although the Senate will be much more difficult to garnish bipartisanship or passage of any type of repeal, it will be a major show of force from the newly elected GOP class and those Democrats that join them.  This could be a huge opportunity for the GOP for a huge political victory.  More importantly, what is the best for the American people?  That is what Congress should do.

I think Congress should actually show some bipartisanship for once and rewrite Health Care Reform including all the things everyone can agree on, and striking out the controversial aspects (the so-called Death Panels, and mandate to purchase insurance).  Things like, closing the donut whole, no pre-existing condition exemptions, etc.  These are all things that make sense, won’t disturb our free market economy, won’t put a massive new responsibility on businesses  (like a mandate would), and would also make the lengthy and costly court battle over the mandate irrelevant.  This would be a victory for the GOP and the Dems that follow, while improving the health care industry, and most importantly, accomplishing what the American people elected their representatives to accomplish.

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Not the Time for Legislation

January 13, 2011

Now is not the time for legislation.  In the aftermath of the tragedy in Tuscon, the public discourse has turned unfortunately political.  However, I say, now is not the time for legislation.  Any legislation at this point would be purely reactionary and would not serve the nation.  People have cited gun control, reinstating the fairness doctrine, limiting congressional appearances, and expanding the U.S. Marshall Service for each representative.

It is only normal after such a terrible event to want to make sure it never happens again.  However, now is not the time to make decisions with so many ramifications on our rights as citizens.  In regards to gun control, people can obtain guns no matter what, and if people want to harm others they will, with a gun or otherwise.  The Fairness Doctrine is a major assault on free speech and shouldn’t even be considered because it won’t help anything.  Limiting congressional appearances limits the access of the public to their representatives, which limits our democratic process.  BIll O’Reilly recently suggested expanding the U.S. Marshalls to guard representatives in D.C. and on their travels.  I don’t think that will deter insane people like Jared Loughner, and one Marshall can only protect so many people, let alone the cost involved.  So what do we do?  Where do the answers lie?

If representatives want to have bolstered security at events with police, metal detectors, etc, that is their prerogative.  However, representatives need to remain as available to their constituents and security cannot stop everything.  If people are crazy as Jared Loughner is, they are going to find a way to hurt someone if they are set on doing so.  What is clear from this situation is that both the police, and the university had multiple chances to get Loughner the mental help he needed to avoid this terrible situation.  Keeping people safe from nuts like Loughner starts with individuals in authority being responsible to recognize the danger signs when they come in contact with them.  This may have been avoided if people would have acted when Loughner showed so much aggression.

Let’s hope this never happens again and we become more vigil for situations like this in the future.  But jumping to conclusions about highly partisan, reactionary legislation should be avoided.  Reactionary legislation is never good legislation.

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The Unfortunate Politicizing of a Tragedy

January 11, 2011

Shocking as the attack in Tuscon, Arizona was this past weekend, the unfortunate politicizing of this tragedy has also been shocking.  The number of news organizations, editorial writers, and other pundits who have sought to establish blame for this tragedy for political reasons has been unfounded and inappropriate. This is not a time to score political points, but to unite with one voice against violence, and for our elected officials to stand in defiance to the terror waged against one of their own.

I was impressed by one of Speaker Boehner’s  first acts as the new Speaker by suspending their repeal efforts and showing leadership by stating, “An attack on one who serves is an attack on all that serve”.  I thought this showed unity at a time when we needed it and was an example of appropriate leadership during this difficult time.  Unfortunately, some in the media, and others associated with this tragedy, have done the opposite.

Almost immediately some were stating that this was due to language used by the far right, Rush Limbaugh (Pima County Sherrif blamed his rhetoric), Sarah Palin using a target graphic in one of her PAC publications, and the Tea Party (see Paul Krugman’s weekend article from the NYT).  What is not disputed is that the person responsible is clearly crazy and motivated by hate.  A pundits comments, or a political graphic don’t make people hate others, or cause them to commit violent acts alone.  We now have evidence that this murderer was a far-left extremist (favorite books including Mein Kampf and the Communist Manifesto), described by a former classmate as a “left-wing pothead”.  Certainly not someone who would fit into the Tea Party mold.  Clearly this was a disturbed individual with a long history (police called to his campus 5 times) of strange and disturbing acts, warning of an eminent act of violence.  He should have been put in a mental health hospital, he should have received help, and he should have been addressed well before this act took place.  Certainly, there is no reason to assign this terrible act  of violence to the political speech of one person, party, or group.

We should all watch what we say and keep our political discourse as civil as possible.  But now, in this time of turmoil and mourning, no one should be looking to exploit it for political gain by assigning blame, especially when there is no evidence of the shooters motivation.

Our thoughts and prayers go to the victims of this horrible attack, and we pray for a fast recovery for Congresswoman Giffords so she may continue to serve her district.

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