Are career politicians the problem?


One think I enjoy doing in debating.  Politics, sports, food, anything really is fair game for a debate in my book.  This weekend as I had another “discussion” on Facebook, whose views are often at the other end of the spectrum, we had a rare moment of having something in common. Term Limits.  As we went back and forth about over two days and a range of topics from size of government, racist history of political parties, government programs versus private sector programs we had nothing in common.  Which is not unusual.  That all changed though when we got on the topic of politicians representing this country correctly.

One of my big issues with politicians, is that today’s political leaders seemed to have forgotten the most important piece about governing the country.  That they represent the people who voted them in and not their own self interests. Nothing seems to happen in Washington these days, because a line has been drawn in the sand and neither party is willing to cross that line to get anything done.  They seem to have forgotten history, where people could reach across the aisle and do what is right for the country. Republicans like to tout Ronald Reagan, but seem to forget that he publicly admitted the need to compromise for the good of the country.

Why has this become a problem? There could be many reasons, but to me a glaring issue is career politicians. Without term limits, elected officials with standing virtually have a career locked down.  So much about election success is name recognition and fundraising. Current Congressperson and Senators have the name recognition when it comes to ballot days.  Also, because they have already worked with the various industries on a many different pieces of legislation, they also will have the inside track on fundraising.  This makes it nearly impossible for challengers to be successful at the polls.  Career politicians have become comfortable, the position is no longer about representing the people, instead it has become about their own self interests.

To me the solution to this is term limits.  We need people in office who will always represent the interest of the people, and eliminating career politicians is a clear solution to me.  Surprisingly enough, it was also a solution of my conservative friend. Will politicians ever go for it, no.  But if enough of us from all political view points can begin pushing this, at some point they will have to listen. However, if we continue to be afraid to speak up, because we fear debate or open discussion about real solutions to our problems nothing will change.

When we open ourselves up to debate and discussion, we will be surprised at how much we can agree on ways to change the system for the better.

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Newt Gingrich’s Confusing Contract


As Newt Gingrich makes a small surge in the polls he is making a push to mirror something he did back in 1994.  Back then he introduced the Contract with America that helped push Republicans to gain control of the house.  Now he has a new version, his presidential version called the 21st Century Contract with America.  Gingrich will outline the plan later today, but his hope is that it showcase his presidential plans to have less government.

I am not sure if this new contract screams less government though.  It seems to take the easy route by offering options, which don’t exactly always amount to less government. One of my issues is with his tax plan.  Instead of pushing for either reforming the tax code or switching to a straight flat tax, he wants to give tax payers a choice.  If you want the current system keep using it, if you want to pay a flat tax you can choose that option.  How is this less government?  Would not we need more government to manage two different tax codes?

To me the real kicker is health coverage, because it also involves this bizarre tax code plan.  So consumers will have the option of purchasing insurance through a tax credit or deducting the value of the policy. So if people want help with paying for health care they need to keep filing with the current tax system and not the flat tax.  Even his senior citizen plans call for more government through things like financial aid if they don’t want Medicare.

Instead of picking one path he seems to be playing the fence and by doing this creating more and not less government.  I think this may be a last-ditch effort to revive a dying campaign.

In the Heat of the Night: NC Begins Assault on Gay Rights


Update: 9/13/11 – Senate passes it as well 30-16

 

I have previously written about the possibility of NC succumbing to southern peer pressure on same-sex marriage.  Well the process is off to a good start for supporters of the constitutional amendment. In a move that will surely upset opponents of this, about 5 hours after the bill was introduced it had passed the house by a vote of  75-42.  It now heads to the senate where passage is a little harder to determine.  While there is support in the senate the question is whether they have enough votes to get it through.

The real tricks in the night are about how they got the votes in the house.  This bill would make the constitutional amendment a ballot initiative and let the NC voters determine its fate.  They wanted to get support from some house democrats and so they made a slight change in the details.  Some of the house democrats supported the measure, but thought that putting on the November 2012 ballot, was a way to increase voter turnout in a presidential race for conservative republicans.  State republicans though, know it was less about voter turnout in a presidential election and more about pushing same-sex couples out of this state.  So they gladly moved it to the May primary ballot, which got them enough support from house democrats.

The majority of people voting in the May primary will be republicans since they are the only ones with a contested race.  This move virtually guarantees that the ballot initiative will get the votes it needs.  Pending what happens in the senate, opponents are going to have to do GOTV efforts to people who would not ordinarily vote in the May primaries to push this back.  It was a sneaky move done in the night hours.

You already know my feelings on the issue of same-sex marriages, so I won’t go into those details again.  But for a state with high unemployment this is a great way to welcome new people and businesses to our state.  Go ahead and tell the gay community they are not welcome in this state.  Don’t move here, don’t spend money here, don’t open a business here, don’t raise children here because you are not welcome.  Also, what a great way to show support for those already living here.  What message are you sending them?  You can live here and spend money here, but we won’t allow you the same rights as others.

Sad day for the state of North Carolina!

Will the American Jobs Act Go Anywhere?


After all the dust has settled from the speech, a huge question remains.  Will this go anywhere?  As I wrote in my last post, I think the speech did enough to put pressure on both sides.  This increases the likelihood that something gets done, but is it enough?  Maybe the answer is, not so fast.

Nothing in D.C. is ever what it seems.  For most of the off-season Washington Redskins fans thought John Beck was going to be the starting quarterback. Instead Rex Grossman will be under center week 1. Football references aside, things in the nation’s capital tend to change quickly.

During the speech, several items like corporate taxes and entitlement reforms brought republicans to their feet.  In the immediate aftermath they admitted that there was a lot to work with.  No one wants to seem like they are against creating jobs, so the popular thing to do was say let’s get to work.

The devil will be in the details though. The president promised that everything would be paid for, but failed to deliver the details.  He promised in the coming week that the details would be revealed.  Those details will determine how much support republicans give him for paying for this.

He talked about improving on the corporate tax rate by closing loopholes.  What loopholes will be closed and how will that lower the highest corporate tax rate in the world?  He mentioned entitlement reform, which will upset his base, and in theory draw support from republicans.  However, we need to know what that reform will look like.  Is it just making cuts, or eliminating waste?

When talking about rebuilding our infrastructure, the key is shovel ready projects.  The last stimulus promised similar construction projects, but found a lack of shovel ready projects.  For this to work, there needs to be a plan at improving the number of shovel ready projects.  The other issue is dealing with foreclosures. While it is great to talk about helping struggling homeowners refinance and capitalize on low rates.  We need to know how we get this done.  What is the plan to help those whose credit scores are too low?  What is the plan for those who are unemployed or underemployed?

The point of all this is that the details still are coming out, and depending on what these details say will determine if this goodwill continues.  I for one, am worried about these details.  I am not sure that both sides are going to hear what they want.  Once all the goodwill is gone and they get to work, we could be setting ourselves up for another nasty stalemate.  No one wants to be seen as stopping job growth, but they also don’t want to create jobs at any cost.

My Quick Take on the Jobs Speech


While under ordinary circumstances, this night would have been all about football these aren’t normal times.  The current crisis calls for action to create jobs and address the foreclosure crisis in order for us to move forward. People have been waiting for a comprehensive jobs plan to come out of D.C. and the speech was to deliver that plan.

President Obama was back to his old campaign form.  The speech felt like one of the moving speeches from the campaign, where you were captivated even if you didn’t agree. I think he played both sides well.  For his base, he focused on stimulus through tax breaks for the middle class, and job creation through rebuilding infrastructure.  He also played to republicans by mentioning the corporate tax rate, entitlement reform, and a mention about regulations.  He catered enough to both sides that I think there is real pressure to get something done. Even in a post speech interview Eric Cantor ( R-VA), couldn’t disagree much and admitted there was a lot to work with in the speech.

With all that being said, I think there were some specifics that could have used some more details.  He mentioned that everything would be paid for, but left us waiting for the specifics.  Yes, he mentioned cuts already made, and promised a detailed plan in the coming week, but some of those details would have been useful. When talking about eliminating loopholes to lower the corporate tax rate, while I know there are many options, but mentioning one or two of the possibilities would have been nice.

My biggest issue with the speech, was the plan for the foreclosure mess seemed like an afterthought.  He mentioned a refinance plan to capitalize on the low rates, but left it at that.  I have been critical of his foreclosure prevention plans in the past, and feel that more attention needs to paid to this issue.  I wanted to hear a strategy to address the refinance plan in the speech, but will have to wait for future speeches I guess.

Overall, I though the speech hit the right points, and had Obama in campaign mode, which really helped him shine.  Once the dust settles from this it will be important for us to hold congress accountable to get this done.

Is NC Caving to Southern Peer Pressure on Same-Sex Marriage?


For those who live in NC know by now that a fight is shaping up on a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. The coverage is showcasing the battle lines.  Democrats are coming together and taking the stance the amendment hurts job creation among other things.

Republicans are utilizing African-American ministers to lead their public fight to get the amendment through.  This has been an ongoing battle for years, but with the democrats being in control for so long the votes were always blocked.  Since the 2010 mid-term elections, when republicans took control of the house and senate.

It seems like they have been using this time to either introduce bad policy, or turn back good policy from years past. On the issue of same-sex marriage, they can finally succumb to southern peer pressure and push this through.  If they are successful, NC will no longer be the only southern state without a constitutional prohibition on same-sex marriage.

I for one, hope that they fail.  I fully support fight for same-sex marriages, and do not understand the harsh fight against it.  We supposedly have the separation of church and state and so any religious reasoning for an amendment should be nullified.  Also, I am not sure how it hurts straight couples to allow same-sex marriages.  How would allowing this impact your marriage, or what your marriage means?  Marriage is supposed to be a life long commitment between two people who love each other.  This should be the case regardless of the sexes involved.

With divorce rates hovering around the 50% mark, it seems straight couples have their own problem protecting the sanctity of marriage. So here’s to hoping that the current attack on same-sex marriage fails, and NC can hold off peer pressure.

Race in Politics Not Headed in the Right Direction


There has always been a racial component to politics in this country.  Even after the Civil Rights Movement, this racial dynamic was clearly up for display.  As time wore on though, and more minorities became involved and elected in politics, that dynamic has shifted from obvious to a more underlying position.  Since the election cycle of 2008 that has all changed, and not just in Washington.  Ever since Obama was a candidate, that racial dynamic has once again begun to shift from underlying towards obvious.  During his campaign, it was widely discussed whether a black man could become president.  There were groups of people who would not vote for him simply because he was black.

It continued after the election and still continues with the rise in white supremacy groups.  But it is deeper than that.  As the mission of the republican party has become to not let  him succeed at all cost, the racial dynamic has moved from white supremacy groups to the halls of congress.  Even if they will not come out and say it, there has been a racial component to their strategy.  The questions of his birth certificate, the outright brashness of calling him a liar, interrupting the state of the union, and more recently the use of “tar baby” are unprecedented attacks on a president.  No president in history has faced the same kind of treatment from the halls of congress.  The rise of the tea party has not helped that dynamic either.  The racial atmosphere that appeared at tea party rallies during the health care debate was troubling.  Despite the rise of Herman Cain as a tea party candidate, you cannot deny the racial component to that movement.

Let’s take it one step further.  The attack on both a federal and state level on programs that are designed to help the poor, is also ripe with racism.  A disproportional amount of people who receive government assistance are minorities, and the disregard our elected officials have towards them is disturbing.  It is continues to bleed down to the lower levels of government as well.  The North Carolina State Legislature has been attacking policy like the Racial Justice Act, and early childhood for poor and at risk children.  If we take one step further, we can look at the Wake County School issue.  Regardless of how you feel about busing and socioeconomic diverse schools, the root of why people wanted to policy to change was a new approach to nimbyism.  A certain subset of people no longer wanted poor kids to be sent to the schools in their neighborhood.  Let them go to school where they live is written all over this, whether they want to admit it or not.

Many people wrongfully thought that the election of Obama pushed America into a post racial society. I would argue that it has done the opposite.  That election has had an impact on the racial dynamic of this country, but not for the better.  What it has done is moving racism back to the forefront.