Friday, February 27, 2009

Stimulating Conversation

I’ll keep this simple, in case a Republican reads it.

The American economy is like your house. When credit was loose and largely unsupervised, you bought this house, probably paid a little more than you should have. Times were good and credit was easy, so you bought a BMW for yourself and an Escalade for the wife to chauffer the kids in. Big screen HD television. Nice summer vacation and flew away for a week every Spring Break. Kids all have Wiis and iPods. Mom has a treadmill and Dad has a custom-fitted set of Calloways. The interest on the debts is an irritant, but not a deterrent. Household maintenance, never glamorous, is neglected.

Now it’s winter. The roof leaks. The furnace doesn’t work. The foundation has cracks that affect the plumbing and the toilets don’t flush. The house is rapidly becoming unlivable, due in large part to your neglect.

What do you do?

If you’re a Republican, you rummage through the attic and find your principles of fiscal conservatism. Debt is bad. These things will take care of themselves over time.

If you’re a sapient life form, you swallow hard and realize the only way to get out of the hole your profligate spending has dug for you is through more spending. Not spending on just anything. Fix the roof. Re-seal the foundation. Repair the plumbing. Get a new furnace. Pay the increased medical bills you incurred because your seven-figure house was an unhealthy hovel. Yes, it’s more debt, and you don’t have a good idea how you’ll pay it back yet, but it won’t matter if you can’t get over this current hump.

I may be a social liberal, but I’m a fiscal conservative. I don’t buy anything I don’t have the money for. My only current debt is a mortgage payment. (I’ll have a car payment again someday, but the current Honda is paid for.) I have a big screen HD TV that I saved up for before I bought it. I have well established the bona fides for my distaste for debt. Yet I am also a sapient life form, and I recognize what has to be done here. It goes against my ideology, but I live in a brick-and-mortar world, not some theoretical construct, so I will swallow hard and accept reality, because no problem can be fixed until you recognize it.

Is that simple enough, you Joe the Plumber loving, redneck, willfully ignorant motherfuckers?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

He Gets It

I voted for Barack Obama in November. I thought he was more likely than John McCain to get us out the myriad of problems he would assume after the Bush Administration left the country looking like one of Aerosmith’s hotel rooms. I didn’t suffer from the inflated expectations of his true believers, either. He’s a politician, and no politician rises to his level without having a certain quality of ruthless pragmatism in him. No Kool-Aid for me.

With that in mind, I can safely say last night’s address to Congress was probably the best political speech I have ever seen. The tone was dead on: he didn’t minimize the problems, but neither did he wring his hands about them. Bankers took their lumps, but no one got away clean, which is as it should be; we all bear some responsibility for this mess. He didn’t call out Republicans by name, but made it clear he inherited this mess, and we all know who left it for him.

What I liked best was his willingness to make it clear he wasn’t pussyfooting around. Things are going to be expected of people, from politicians to bankers to you and me. Responsibilities are going to have to be met. Pet programs are going to have to be abandoned.

The time for reckoning came long ago; now we finally have someone who appears to be willing to take some heat to do something about it. He also framed the discussion of why his key programs must be met. Our inability to control the costs of health care not only leaves too many people outside the safety net, but it places too great a burden on American business. It’s no longer a feel-good liberal “entitlement” to preach for universal health care; it’s good business sense. Energy independence is a national security issue, like it or not. Placing unpleasant expenses—like the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—off the budget to artificially hold down the official deficits was the tawdriest type of sleight of hand, demeaning those who perpetrated it as well as those who accepted it. It’s way past time that stopped.

Will he accomplish everything he set out last night? Certainly not. Political realities will combine with unforeseen events to require sights to be reset. That being said, if you don’t know where you’re going, how will you know when you get there? For the first time in a long time, this country has a leader who knows where he wants us to go, and it’s a better place than where we are now.

Today's New York Post Headline

Holder Chosen to Miss Obama's Speech, Ensures Black President No Matter What Happens.

Maybe they didn't print it, but they thought of it.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Stuff You Can't Make Up

This proves the joke isn't always on the Polish guy.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Assigning Responsibility

The finger pointing over who is more at fault for the whole Judd Gregg fiasco will go on for several days. Democrats are blaming Gregg for jilting them; Republicans are claiming Gregg’s withdrawal is a response to the Obama Administration’s hyper-partisan actions. The real issue is much simpler.

The question that begs to be asked is, who thought it was a good idea to nominate a senator who voted to eliminate the Commerce Department and has been a harsh critic of the census as Commerce Secretary in the first place? Gregg may have been a little na├»ve by accepting the appointment, but he shouldn’t be vilified now for seeing the light and doing the right thing. As for the Republicans’ accusations of Democratic hyper-partisanship, the November bloodbath was in large part a referendum on Republican policies, leadership, and practices. Obama has spent more time consulting with the other party in the past three weeks than the Bush Administration did in the four previous years.

The real issue here is that Gregg was improperly vetted, as were Tom Daschle, Bill Richardson, and Tim Geithner. The Obama Administration has done a lot of things well in its early days, and has made some excellent appointments, but its overall personnel record is disturbingly uneven, at best.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It Still Only Tuesday

The Onion had it right. Monday you write off. It’s the first day of the week, it sucks, get over it. At least you just had a weekend.

Wednesday is Hump Day. When it’s done you’re better than halfway there.

By Thursday you can practically smell the weekend.

The eagle flies on Friday.

On Tuesday the next weekend is too far away to be more than an abstract concept, but the previous weekend is a fading memory.

Damn.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Can You Spare Some Change?

Barack Obama campaigned for president on the slogan, “Change You Can Believe In.” No one suspected he was referring to people who believed in tax fraud.

Timothy Geithner was named Treasury Secretary despite his failure to pay $43,000 in taxes. The World Bank even gave him the money and said, “This is for your taxes.” Now he’s tasked with solving the baking crisis, allegedly because he’s the only person who fully understands it. How good do you feel about that?

Tom Daschle’s first speed bump on the road to being Secretary of Health and Human Services came when word got out he owed $140,000 in back taxes. Tom didn’t think a free car and driver counted as income. His former peers in the Senate rallied to his defense, said it was an honest mistake: the tax code is complicated on such matters. Tom was only about to be tasked with guiding universal health care through the rapids and eddies of becoming law.

Hilda Solis’s nomination to be Secretary of Labor has been delayed because her husband’s business has outstanding tax liens totaling $6400. A small sum for a business, to be sure, but some have been outstanding for sixteen years. Hubby claims this is the first he’s heard about them. Mail delivery must be pretty bad in their neck of the woods.

Nancy Killefer, nominated to essentially be head of quality control for the government, bailed when her tax lapses came to light, though they were the most easily understandable of the lot, failing to file Social Security tax for domestic help. Not excusable for someone looking for the job she was about to hold, but no great benefit to herself.

These episodes tell us several things, all of which will be explored in more detail as time goes on and I get more pissed off.

1. The Obama Administration’s promises of running a more competent government shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Someone hasn’t been doing their homework if all of the above were nominated for important and sensitive posts despite tax situations that might be considered felonies for you or me.
2. The change we can believe in will not extend so far as to disrupt the society of privilege. Americans claim to be a classless society because we have no official royalty or nobles, yet wealth and power decide who does, or does not, obey the law or ethical standards. Miss payments on a billion dollars of commercial real estate and the banks will come to you with refinancing plans. Miss payments on a $200,000 home mortgage and your ass is in the street.

All of the above make it a good bet the stimulus bill under consideration in Congress won’t be enough. The Democrats ladled in too much pork and too many pet projects that should have been discussed on their own merits. Republicans demanded too many tax cuts, which don’t stimulate as well as spending, can’t be targeted (since we can’t control what people spend the money on), and won’t help the people who need it most: the unemployed don’t pay much in taxes because they’re not making any goddamn money.

Bailing out the banks kept them afloat, and might have kept the rest of us from going under with them; that’s what we keep hearing. If you’re looking for positive results from the first $350 billion we took from our children to give to the banks, keep looking; John Thain’s office might be a good place to start.

This is about the sixth time I’ve begun this topic. I never posted because I never found a satisfying way to end it. I still haven’t.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Letting the Punishment Fit the Crime

The inmates of the Prince George’s County (MD) jail rioted Sunday, disabling the locks on their cell doors and beating up the guards because they were prevented from watching the Super Bowl on television due to a lockdown. This alone makes one wonder how there could be a lockdown when the inmates obviously have the ability to disengage the locks, but that may be something for law enforcement professionals to debate.

Here’s what gets me, from today’s Washington Post article:

Vernon Herron, the county's director of public safety, said he thinks the cell lock problem is limited to the unit where Sunday's disturbance occurred. He said the locks for the 48 cells in that unit, where inmates accused of violent crimes are housed, will be inspected and replaced if necessary.

So they’re going to inspect them now; ongoing inspections of the locks in the Violent Crimes wing haven’t been on the radar previously. Apparently PG County makes damn sure shoplifters and pot smokers have secure locks on their cells; violent offenders can come and go as they please.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Dodging the Bullet

I’ve been negligent about this blog for a couple of weeks. It’s not my fault. (You’re scratching your head, thinking, “He’s apologizing for that? People look forward to King neglecting this blog.”) Every time I start to write something, it has to do with the current politico-economic sodomy we’re currently experiencing and I get so worked up I’ve written six hundred words before I’ve gotten to the point and the adrenaline rush is making the argument harder to hold to hold together and…

Yeah. Like that.

Suffice to say, there are too many people who just don’t get it. Democrats and Republicans. The list of what’s pissing me off can’t be typed before I have to leave for work in nine-and-a-half hours. So consider yourself lucky.

For now.