Friday, September 2, 2011

Bachmann's Greatest Hits

Happy first football weekend! To kick things off on a light (horrifying?) note, take a minute to check out Michele Bachmann's finest moments as a representative of our great nation. And remember, President Obama may have caved to empty politics and pushed his speech back a day to please John Boehner, but he will never say things as ill-informed and vacuous as this aspiring Commander in Chief.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Debt solution at our doorstep

In one of my classes we have looked very closely at the issue of America's debt and deficit crisis. We read over numerous budget plans, proposals, tables, and charts. One thing that is clear is that a viable budget solution must employ all 4 "options": Cuts to security related discretionary spending, cuts to non-security discretionary spending, cuts to mandatory spending (entitlements), and increased revenue. Bipartisan plans, such as the Simpson-Bowles report, take this into account.

The problem is that mandatory spending for entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security is already the most troublesome of the three main categories of spending and will become even more difficult as our population ages and income inequality increases.

So, it all essentially boils down to what to do with entitlement programs; from there we can find ways of solving our many other problems.

We need a solution that maintains these programs as a safety net for disadvantaged, disabled and elderly Americans and doesn't hurt our recovering economy.

Where can we find such a magical solution?

It won't be easy or be found all in one place, but CNN's Fareed Zakaria knows one place we can start and it makes a lot of sense.

Immigration reform is the subject of an article by Zakaria from CNN World online, and he makes a compelling point that is even more compelling in light of what has happened in the time since the article was posted.

Immigration policy and the contributions of immigrants is what made America great, what continues to make America great, and what has the potential to help America get back on her feet.

The hardworking people who come here for a better life are more than just a solution to our demographics problem, but they also are indeed a counterweight to an aging population of baby-boomers. If we can reform our policies in such a way that more immigrants can come here legally and those who are already here illegally can legitimize their presence, we will have more than enough money flowing into entitlement programs to support future retirees.

In fact illegal immigrants already put more into the economy and taxes than they take out in services, and that difference would only increase were they granted amnesty.

As Zakaria argues, immigrants maintain a demographic vibrancy that separates America, for the better, from other industrial powers in Europe and Asia. We simply cannot afford to lose any social or economic advantages nowadays. Reforming our immigration to be competitive in the 21st century and beyond is something that we have to do sooner or later if we want to remain a prosperous nation, and sooner is preferable to later.

If you somehow aren't convinced that immigrants can help our economy, read this article to see what they can do for society as our neighbors. If you are convinced, I still recommend reading it to see just how inspiring the story of one Pakistani man can be.

The only drawback of this idea, which ideally wouldn't be an issue, is that it might not be politically viable.

In our current political climate we can't even manage to raise the budget ceiling for the umpteenth time or agree what the government is going to spend in the next year. How then are we going to find compromiseon an issue as important and divisive as immigration reform? Republican law makers know that no amount of rational argument for the economic and social benefits of immigration reform will convince their base to support anything but a really big wall. It is also going to be nearly impossible to get anything real done on something this big until after the election.

As excited as I am about the prospects of immigration reform for addressing our nation's money problems, I might have to wait a while before the issue is addressed.

I hope our next president is willing to take a good look at the benefits of immmigration reform and to do something about it. By which I mean that I hope we reelect President Obama.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Have We Truly Sunk This Low?

I'm truly not sure about the future of America anymore.

We used to the be the country that came together in times of need to solve problems. When deficits loomed, people like Tip O' Neill and Ronald Reagan who had nothing in common when it came to policy would find ways to make deals that were real compromises. They were civil and cordial and some would say that when the day was over they were almost friends.

But today something's changed. Today, winning the next election is more important than governing. And that's just sad. I thought this debt ceiling crap was as low as we could go. I didn't think the situation could look any grimmer. But earthquakes and hurricanes, true disasters which SHOULD unite our country are instead highlighting this broken system.

With parts of the South STILL rebuilding from Katrina, with the Midwest rebuilding from Joplin, and with the East Coast rebuilding from one earthquake and Irene, nature has really given us a run for the money. Literally. Because according to majority leader Eric Cantor, we can't give FEMA more money unless we cut something else out of the federal budget. So in the meantime they are pulling money out of all rebuilding projects to help the Northeast.

This is what happens when you hold hard line commitments live an anti-tax pledge or a no new spending pledge, or whatever the hell you want to call it. Principles are all well and good, but we live in a real world, that is changing and brutal. No line liberal, conservative, green, democrat, republican, libertarian or whatever should be held constant through all times and all places. To even think to do so is insanity. Maybe the reason Mr. Cantor can't believe in Evolution is because he never developed the ability to adapt to new circumstances.

Times of tragedy and disaster require us to surrender some principles in the name of others. The Christian right believes in the sanctity of human life and maybe they should consider THAT principle when they're still talking about deficits over disaster relief.

Because see they are the problem. We always try to equalize or be fair and say that both sides of the aisle are being unreasonable but that's JUST NOT TRUE. Obama has throughout his presidency reached out his hand to deal with Republicans. He has made offers that liberals hated. And yet the Republican party continues to say that defeating him is their number one goal.

Right now there are people who need help. And we, "the most powerful nation on Earth", are leaving them out to dry because some uppity Republicans think the bottom line on the budget matters more than human lives. And that's a danger to our country. When one party has decides that their principles and their next election really are more important than the public they represent, it's we the American people who lose. And it's time for us to demand that the Republican party wake up come back to reality. They don't agree with us and they don't have to like us, but they have to work with us. That's what democracy means.