Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | March 7, 2009

Rush Limbaugh…quit yer bitchin’

I’ve had just about enough of El Rushbo and his dittoheads whining about the direction of the country under President Obama…a direction that 12 years of Republican control of Congress and 8 long years of George W. Bush in the White House sent us.  Now, I’m not your typical Democrat or liberal or what have you…in fact, I think I’m moderately conservative on most issues (especially social issues like abortion) and definitely a fiscal conservative.  Hey, I even called myself a Republican until March 19, 2003…that was the date the Republican Party left me by starting an unnecesary war that has cost more than half a trillion dollars and not made the USA one iota safer.  Just my opinion, though.

I first encountered Rush Limbaugh on a cool fall morning in 1984 on KFBK radio in Sacramento, CA while driving to a class at a community college.  His show was lively, entertaining, and informative…pretty unique for those days.  I became an avid listener day after day at work or in the car.  I listened to him right up until moving to Los Angeles to attend university in 1988…then I heard that his show was going national and I was thrilled.  Four more years of daily Limbaugh!  Those days before the national radio show were sweet…debates with Charlie the Socialist and playing Slim Whitman records backwards to hear the advice Satan was giving youngsters…priceless!  I continued listening right on through the 1990’s and the Clinton Presidency and into the middle of George W.’s first term.  Then Rush became a pill popping hypocrite.  Everything he claimed to stand for came crashing down as he failed to call the Republicans for their profligate spending habits, their inability and unwillingness to live by their own principles.  All told the W Presidency will add around $5.5 trillion dollars to our national debt…a debt created primarily by Republican Presidents paying lip service to balanced budgets.  In fact, the only balanced budgets in recent memory came under that big socialist President William J. Clinton.

Yes, conservatives have gotten us into this mess and now President Obama has to try his darndest to get us out.  Good luck with that one Barack!  Republicans controlled the White House for 20 of the last 28 years and they submitted exactly, uh, zero balanced budgets to Congress.  Only Clinton did that.  While conservatives were busy making war in Iraq and cutting taxes on the rich, our infrastructure collapsed.  Interstate bridges fell into rivers, school buildings decayed, and our highways became more congested every day.  Republicans screamed about earmarks and pork in the federal budget while making sure to get enough bacon home to get themselves reelected.  Oh wait, their pet projects didn’t qualify as pork?  Those were necessary expenditures.  Whatever!

Frankly, I don’t give a rat’s ass about pork or earmarks.  Let ’em fill the omnibus bills with earmarks until the pigs come home.  We need our schools rebuilt, our college campuses secured, and better public transit.  And we need better health insurance coverage for every American.  I’m not asking for something for nothing…I’ll pay my fair share.  I happen to live in the greatest country in the world…at least I thought so until I watched the GOP prove that government was the problem…at least when they are in control of it!

The real problem I have with conservatives these days is that they want to live in the greatest country in the world but they don’t want to pay the price for doing so.  Having a solid infrastructure in place so businesses can thrive and prosper is not cheap.  A service based economy like ours needs well-educated workers, unless all we plan to have are fast food chains messing up our orders.  The rest of the world is zipping past us faster than superman and that infamous locomotive.  We must not only keep up, we must overtake it if we are once again to be the leader of the free world based on something more than our military might.  The Soviet Union tried to compete with us based on military strength alone and did a good job for nearly 50 years.  Maybe our military strength will hold us for another 30-40 years, maybe not.  I don’t really want to find out because I love my country way too much to watch that happen.

Back to Rush Limbaugh…I tried valiantly to watch his recent speech to CPAC, I really did.  In fact, I made it through about an hour before turning to the transcript.  It was painful to see the angry old man Rush had become.  Today, Rush is nothing more than a demagogue who uses conservativism and Ronald Reagan for as many millions of dollars as the powers that be in radio will pay him.  As Rush Limbaugh has risen from a nearly bankrupt public relations job with the Kansas City Royals to the voice of conservativism in America, conservatives in control of the mechanisms of government have nearly bankrupted America.  So Rush, take your millions, buy some more cigars and cognac (wait…that’s French isn’t it…make it Scotch), pontificate, and quit yer bitchin’ because you live in the greatest country in the world in spite of your party’s efforts to destroy it.

PS:  Don’t think you spineless liberals are going to get off easy either…I’m gunnin’ for you next.

Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | February 17, 2009

Republicans and the Stimulus Package, part deux

I’ve done a bit of pondering on the stimulus package lately and the Republican response to it.  On the one hand, we have a president desperately seeking votes from the GOP even though he doesn’t need them.  On the other hand, the GOP is crying about being excluded from the process even though they were invited and several of their amendments were accepted as part of the final bill (which was crafted by three moderate Republicans…now known as RINO’s).

Message to President Obama:  Do it your way, that’s why you were elected.  Don’t seek compromise with those to whom compromise means surrender.

Republicans are making a big stink about all the spending in this package but…isn’t that what stimulates the economy?  Would it have made a difference to the GOP if the $787 billion was comprised solely of tax cuts?  You betcha!  Why is it ok to spend $787 billion cutting taxes but not spend it investing in people…jobs, education, healthcare, roads, etc…?  The Republicans had control of the government for 6 very long years and gave us two huge tax cuts that resulted in a doubling of the national debt in just 8 years, an economic meltdown unlike anything we have faced in 80 years, and their answer is more tax cuts?  The previous administration handed a $1 billion dollar deficit to the Obama Administration and it will only grow larger if we are to get out of this nightmare.  So let’s invest in things that will pay off in the long run, not provide a few measly dollars to people so they can enjoy an extra day at the movies once in a while.

This is a critical time in America’s lifespan and we must make the right choice or risk becoming irrelevant on the world stage.  No, I don’t mean we won’t be a superpower but we are likely to lose our economic influence.  As the largest consumer of the world’s products (and fossil fuels) we must be responsible with our consumption and good stewards of our resources.  If we are to remain competitive around the world we must do a better job educating our children, begin producing advanced technology at home, and rebuilding our national infrastructure.  Throwing money at a problem does not solve it so we need to be thoughtful about how and where the money is spent.  But right now is the right time to rebuild our nation and put it upon sure footing for a long time to come.

Message to the GOP…either you’re part of the solution or you’re part of the problem.  You decide.  You’re playing a very risky game right now…and if you lose you’ll become the permanent minority you were from 1954 to 1994.  Maybe then the GOP will find it’s soul again.

Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | February 9, 2009

Economic Stimulus

The Senate continues debating President Obama’s economic stimulus plan today after several days of arguments last week.  The House package is around $820 billion and the Senate versions are between $780 billion (the Collins bill) and $900 billion (the Democrats bill).  What will happen?  What should happen?

Also this week, expect an announcement about a new round of bailouts for the banking industry.  Since the first $750 billion didn’t accomplish much we should do it again, right?

Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | December 2, 2008

Where’s My Bailout?

Yesterday a group of leading economists acknowledged what most middle class Americans have known for quite some time…the US economy is in the midst of a deep recession and has been since December of last year.  Many of us knew this and scaled back spending, which adds to the economic slump.  The government didn’t acknowledge that a recession had begun but sent out “economic stimulus” checks over the summer to avoid or postpone the recession.  Oops, too late.  Now, economists are worried that this may be the longest and deepest recession since WWII and unemployment may reach as high as 9%.  Retailers are fearing the first overall decline in per capita Christmas spending in decades and many are seeking bankruptcy protection or shutting their doors forever.  Among the casualties so far are Linens-n-Things, Circuit City, and Big Dogs Clothing.  More are sure to follow but no one is rushing to bail them out.

The story is a bit different in Detroit.  America’s “big three” automakers (GM, Ford, and Chrysler) are experiencing difficult economic times as well.  The huge contracts with the UAW, excessive bonuses for executives, and manufacturing of big gas guzzling vehicles has hit Detroit squarely between the eyes.  Their chickens have come home to roost.

So the big three have made their plea to Washington to save them from their own fiscal irresponsibility.  We’ll renegotiate our contracts, slash our compensation, sell our corporate jets, and so on they say.  All this in exchange for perhaps $50 billion of taxpayer funds.  Well, why not?  We’ve handed out around $350 billion to keep several bad banks in business, we gave the airlines $15 billion in 2001 to prevent a complete collapse of that industry, and the government bailed out Chrysler a few decades ago.  So why not do it again?

The simple answer has to do with personal and corporate responsibility.  Millions of Americans are struggling to pay their bills, hoping desperately to keep their jobs, send their kids to college, keep their homes, and put food on the table.  Some of them are struggling because of choices they made but many more are struggling because of choices others made.  So, in a very real way, the struggles of middle America are a result of the bad business practices of corporate America, and vice versa.  Smart companies and smart consumers make smart choices.  Sometimes even they get hurt by the dumb choices of others but not too often.

Take the airline industry for example.  The old model of doing business was to cater to the business traveler.  Provide them with perks like free upgrades to 1st class, meals, hot towels, and comfy lounges to wait in before flying.  This came with a price but it allowed for ticket refunds, no Saturday night stays, and free changes of ticket dates and times.  The leisure traveler got a bargain…lower fares but with many more restrictions.  Then the market changed and the old business model just wouldn’t fly anymore.  Smaller regional airlines who had built their business model on leisure travel without all the perks and huge salaries of the old guard enjoyed record profits.  While most airlines were losing billions, Southwest was making billions and earning customer loyalty.  Today the old guard charges travelers to check their luggage, Southwest does not.  The old guard charges for “premium” seat assignments, Southwest does not.  Who is making money?  Southwest, not the other guys.

Back to Detroit…sure, it’s going to hurt if Ford, GM, and Chrysler go down.  But America will still have a thriving auto manufacturing industry.  Only most of those vehicles will be built in Alabama, Georgia, and other southern states where the cost of living is lower, shipping goods is cheaper, and weather isn’t a huge problem for a third of the year.  Those vehicles will also be made by foreign owned companies, just like most televisions, radios, and electronics are today.  Maybe that’s not such a bad thing.

Unless the government is ready to bailout every failing industry, every bad business practitioner, and every homeowner facing foreclosure, maybe it shouldn’t bailout anyone at all.  Maybe.

Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | November 14, 2008

The Race Issue

Much has been made of the race of Barack Obama and how racial barriers were broken in this year’s presidential election.  Perhaps.  A closer look at the numbers indicates that the joyous celebration that racism in America has come to an end may be a bit premature.

Many have noted that African-Americans voted in extremely overwhelming numbers for Barack Obama.  Nationally, the exit polls indicate that over 95% of the African-American vote went to President-elect Obama, somewhat higher than the usual 88-90% of the African American vote that democrats normally receive.  Hispanics also voted in large numbers for Obama, almost 2 to 1 over John McCain.  The margin in these two groups alone is enough to account for Barack Obama’s election as president as they provided more than a 17 million vote plurality to Obama.

The numbers are starkly different when examining white voters.  Whites voted for John McCain by a margin of 55-43 nationally (the other 2% refused to say).  Out of the 58 million votes received by Senator McCain, nearly 51 million came from white voters, or about 88% of his total.  Of the 66 million plus votes received by Barack Obama, whites made up only 63% of his total.

Let me be very clear:  I am not saying that whites or African-Americans voted solely on the basis of race and I’m not saying that America is still as racially divided as it once was.  Progress has been made but perhaps not quite as much progress as we would like to think.  Consider the following:

  • whites in California voted for Obama 52% to 46%
  • whites in Minnesota voted for Obama 53% to 46% (mirroring the national vote as a whole)
  • whites in New Hampshire went to Obama by 54% to 44%
  • whites in Virginia went to McCain by 60% to 39%
  • whites in Mississippi & Alabama voted for McCain by a margin of 88% to 10%

Why such a disparity in the white vote between different regions?  In the Old South, McCain won the white vote overwhelmingly.  It is possible that religion had some influence in the southern states known as the Bible Belt.  The majority of whites in the south consider themselves evangelicals who attend church at least once a week, and these voters went to McCain 67% to 33% nationally, and by a margin of 92% to 8% in the south.

Whether the presidential vote of whites in the south and African-Americans nationwide was related to race is a matter for scholars to decide.  Nevertheless, it is an intriguing bit of data.

Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | November 12, 2008

These Divided States of America

A week ago America chose Barack Obama as its 44th president.  The election sent shivers down the spines of some on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum, albeit for vastly different reasons.  The left celebrated the election of the first African-American while the right mourned and wept for the loss of liberty sure to come under the first socialist president in American history.  Or so they argue.

In historical terms the election of Barack Obama is truly monumental.  Not only did he need to overcome the presumptive democratic nominee, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, and her huge fundraising machine heading into the primary season but he also had to battle for name recognition.  Even so, by the end of the Democratic primaries in June many voters were still saying to themselves Barack who?  My wife and I were not in that group as we had joined the Obama bandwagon long before that chilly day in February 2007 when the senator officially announced his candidacy.

The election is now history and history making.  The past 16 years in Washington DC have been among the most divisive I can recall.  Beginning with the election of Bill Clinton through the end of George W. Bush’s 2nd term the mood in the country has been extremely polarized.  Republicans bitterly fought every initiative of Bill Clinton while Democrats did the same under George W. Bush.  Some things did get done, of course, as they always do no matter who is in charge.  But it got me to thinking about just how divided we are as a nation and how the Obama campaign promised a cleaner sort of politics.  I think in large part that contributed to the victory of Senator Obama.  Most polls indicated that voters saw John McCain as running a mean spirited dirty campaign.  Voters said enough is enough and repudiated the politics of personal destruction this time around.  Or did they?  Time will tell as the candidates for 2012 should announce in a week or so!

Many pundits were predicting this election would be too close to call and in several states it was.  Thankfully, however, we elected a president without legions of lawyers, poll watchers, and justices of the Supreme Court becoming involved.  So I started thinking about the partisan division of the presidential vote in America over the past 5 elections.  Democrats have now won the White House in 3 of the past 5 contests (4 if you count the popular vote in 2000) by a margin of 19 million votes.  If we go back to 1988 and the victory of George H.W. Bush the margin shrinks to 12 million votes in favor of the Democrats.  Adding in Ronald Reagan’s two victories moves the ledger to the Republican side by 13 million votes.  That means that over 8 presidential elections over the span of 28 years the two parties are divided by only 13 million votes out of nearly 775 million votes cast for the two major parties.  That amounts to a margin of 1.7% over 28 years!  If we add in the millions more that were cast for third party candidates John Anderson (1980), Ross Perot (1992 & 1996), and Ralph Nader (2000) the margin falls even lower, to just over 1.5%.

What does all this mean?  Either it means that neither of the two major parties knows how to govern well enough to build a permanent majority or Americans really do like to keep their government close to the center of the political spectrum.  Sometimes they prefer strong leaders on security issues and other times they want strong domestic policy leaders.  The first party that figures out how to produce both at the same time may find itself running a one party nation.

Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | November 10, 2008

The future of the GOP

Here we are almost a week after the historic election of Barack Obama as the nation’s first biracial and African-American president.  There has been a lot of chatter on the blogosphere as to whether the election was truly for Barack Obama or against George W. Bush and the Republican Party policies of the past 8 years.  Many will debate the answer to that question and I will leave that in their capable hands.  My concern today is what will the next four or eight years hold and what will the response of the Republican Party be to the Obama presidency?

It seems to me that the republicans have a couple of choices, none of which are ultimately going to please the entire party.

1)  The party can console itself that this election wasn’t really a referendum on republican ideas as much as it was a response to the current economic crisis.  In other words, had economic times been better the party would have held the White House for 3rd consecutive election, something very difficult to do in modern times.  In fact, it has only been done once, in 1988, since FDR won his 3rd term in 1940.  The party controlling the White House has come close on three other occasions, the republicans with Richard Nixon in 1960 (lost by .2%), Gerald Ford in 1976 (lost by 2.1%), and the democrats with Al Gore in 2000 (won popular vote by .5% but lost Electoral College by 5 votes).  So the deck was stacked against the GOP in 2008.

2)  The party can see this election as a repudiation of hard-right politics and policies and move in a more centrist manner.  Governing in America is always done from a center-right oe center-left position anyway.  The pluralistic nature of the American electorate always pulls presidents back toward the center when they drift away.  The same can be said of any party that wants to retain its status as a major player in American politics.  If the democrats were as kooky as the republicans often say they would never be entrusted with the reins of government.  The reverse is true of the republicans.  So option #2 is move to the center, which will anger and alienate many conservative ideologues but attract moderates.

3)  The party can retrench itself on the basis of strong conservative thinkers like the late William F. Buckley.  Doing so means shedding its association with the interest groups that threaten to tear it apart every four years such as the socially conservative evangelicals.  But can the party win national elections without at least paying lip service to the issues these voters care about?  I think it can but it may spend quite a few elections in the wilderness trying to find its way.

4)  The party can resort to being divisive and obstructionist over the next four or eight years and hope that the Obama presidency results in bad times for America.  The surest way to regain power would be to allow the recession to become a depression or have America suffer a devastating terrorist attack.  I’m not saying the republicans WANT either of these things to happen but for the sake of political expediency one never knows.

Now, the question is, which of these paths is the party more likely to take?  I have a hunch but I’ll keep that to myself for right now.  Hint:  It probably won’t be any of the first three options.  Be afraid, be very afraid.  I truly hope I’m wrong but House minority leader John Boehner indicated the direction he would take the party when he launched into an all out attack on President-elect Obama’s choice for Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel.  For heaven’s sake, John, give the guy a chance to screw up before you dump on him!

Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | November 8, 2008

Election Reflection

As I sit here four days after the historic election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States I can only wonder what the future holds.  President-elect Obama is America’s first African-American president, our first bi-racial president, and our first president to have lived in at least one Islamic country for a few years, though he was a child at the time.  How will his life experiences shape his presidency?  What constraints will the American system of separated institutions sharing power do to his ambitions?  Will Barack Hussein Obama be a transcendent figure in American history the way John Brown, Susan B. Anthony, and Martin Luther King Jr. were?  Or will he be just another president in a long line of mediocrity?  Only time will tell but for now it is as the old adage says, “Hope springs eternal.”

This election was hard fought and the losing side deserves credit for making a valiant effort and a gracious concession.  No contesting the votes in key battleground states, no late nights waiting to find out who won and who lost. The choice of the American people was clear.  America voted for a change in direction from the policies of the last 8 years.  Some on the Republican side see this as a temporary setback that can be remedied by a vigorous slate of candidates in 2010 and fresh blood in 2012.  I’m not so sure.  It is true that American politics is like a football game that plays out between the 40 yard lines with neither side ever moving the ball too far before being pushed backwards.  But here’s the thing:  The Democratic Party has won the popular vote for president in four of the past five presidential elections.  Not since George H.W. Bush in 1988 has the Republican Party won a convincing Electoral College and popular vote victory.  The current President Bush squeaked to victory in 2000 by a margin of 5 electoral votes while losing the popular vote by more than half a million.  In 2004, in the midst of a war that had not yet become unpopular, he was reelected by the smallest margin for an incumbent in over 70 years. His Electoral College margin was only about 30 votes over a Democratic candidate who was slandered and attacked mercilessly by 527 groups like the Swift Boat Veterans.  Even so, the election came down to 100,000 votes in the state of Ohio, which easily went to Barack Obama this time.  So, does that indicate a fundamental change in America or not?  It is hard to say right now.

It seems as though it would be easy to say America has moved away from the GOP and into the waiting arms of the Democrats.  Not so fast, bubba!  This election was nowhere near the landslides Ronald Reagan won in 1980 and 1984.  The results may simply be a referendum on what the electorate sees as a lousy last four years.  A war of choice that turned into a nightmare, a debate on torturing enemy combatants, revelations of spying on Americans by the CIA and FBI, and an economic crisis unseen in 80 years.  All these factors could have led to the election of Senator Obama, in addition to his charisma, his ethnic and racial background, and his eloquence.

While it is uncertain at this point what an Obama presidency will accomplish, the world outside of our door is hopeful and a little anxious.  In some quarters, it is like a new day has begun for our relations in the middle east.  Others are not so hopeful.  Put me down in the hopeful column. It is well past time for America to stop acting like the big bully on the block and recognize that our future success and safety are intricately tied to the prosperity of many in the middle east.  If they prosper we will prosper and be safe.  If they continue to suffer and blame America for their misery, we will continue to have troubles and threats to our security.  If there is one solid hope from the election of Barack Obama it is that America may pursue a more benevolent and benign foreign policy.  Do not take that to mean we should allow ourselves to become vulnerable for that is not my intent.  But it does mean that for the first time in 8 years we should give a damn about what the rest of the world thinks and take that under thoughtful consideration before we act.

Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | November 5, 2008

Truly An Historic Moment For America

Whether or not one agrees with the policy positions of Barack Obama does not matter today.  Last evening America went to the polls and chose a new president.  A nation stained by decades of human slavery, a nation that fought a civil war costing hundreds of thousands of lives, a nation that prevented African-Americans from voting until the 1960’s, a nation that segregated school children and adults on the basis of skin color as little as half a century ago, that very same nation chose as president it’s first African-American, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.  Ironically, President-Elect Obama is a citizen of the same state that launched Abraham Lincoln’s career and led to the abolition of slavery.  Today is truly a day for all Americans to be proud of their country for overcoming the barrier of race in politics.

That is not to say that President Obama will be a perfect president or resolve all our national problems.  In fact, there is a likelihood that some of our problems may become worse for a season.  We face difficult challenges in the days and years ahead.  We must join together to fight the good fight, put partisan politics behind us, and embrace the future of this brave new world we have entered.  This will be difficult for many, especially the 46% of us who did not vote for President Obama, for whatever reason.  Today is a day for reconciliation, not gloating.

That said, let us pray for the future of our country.  Let us pray that the wisdom of God will be the wisdom of our new president-elect.  Let us join hands in a spirit of unity that only Americans are capable of doing.  Together we can move America forward and solve the problems extant in the city of man.  Divided we will only fail.  Let us choose progress and restore the shining light of freedom for all to see.  Let us be Americans.

Posted by: The Poli Sci Guy | November 4, 2008

Election Day in America

Today marks the end of the longest presidential campaign in American history.  It also marks the end of the first campaign to rely heavily on the internet where supporters of both major candidates could make their arguments on personal blogs and allow readers to respond.  The internet has previously changed the way we communicated, the way we shopped, the way we played, and now it has changed the way we think about our choices in elections.  What has been previously referred to as the information age has taken on a whole new meaning.  Where do we go from here?  Your guess is as good as mine.

I hope everyone got the chance to vote today and everyone who voted has their vote counted.  Democracy depends on the voice of the people being heard.  We will either tell our leaders today that we are displeased with what they have done over the past 4 years or that we approve and want them to stay the course.  That really is what it comes down to in the end.  My suspicion is that we will fire the party that has controlled the federal government for much of the past 8 years and give the other party a chance to take us in a new direction.  If so, let us hope that direction leads to a prosperous and less divisive America than the one we have today.  Together we can accomplish much good throughout our nation and the world.  Divided we will only fail.  And we’ll have only ourselves to blame.