Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Line of the Day

From Call Me Fishmeal, discussing current TSA policies:

If you hired a security guard to watch your house, and 10 years later your neighbors said, “Hey, several times now dudes have tried to steal your shit, but we came over and stopped them each time after your security guy let them through,” would you continue to employ him? Especially if every time you tried to enter your house, he grabbed your nuts and took naked pictures of your wife?

Parts of the post are a little unfair to TSA, but the general tone is apt, and that quote was dead on.

Thanks to the Search Engine Correspondent for pointing this out.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who Pays?

Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles have made their initial recommendations on how to cut the deficit. The legislation that comes of this, if any, will look very much different, but what they presented may serve as a blueprint, especially for those areas where there is not a hard and fast constituency.

The way it looks now, I'll take a beating. They recommend eliminating the home mortgage interest deduction, and my employer-provided health benefits--which my employer has reduced each of the past few years--will become taxable. I don't like it, but I can live with it. This country rode the gravy train for too long, and even though i wasn't one of those who overextended himself and defaulted on a credit card or mortgage, I understand everyone will have to pitch in.

Just so long as everyone does.

I don't mind if my tax obligation increases twice as much as someone who makes half as much. Hell, I don't mind if it increases more than twice as much if that guy's still raising small children, with the million expenses kids accrue. I just want to make sure the guys who make twice what I make--or ten times, or a hundred times--get nicked, too.

Conservatives complain about the "redistribution of wealth" every time a new tax is proposed. What has been done since 1980 with every tax cut? Those, too, have been redistributions of wealth, though in the other direction, taking money away from those who didn't have as much and giving it to those who already had more.

I'll pay my extra share willingly, so long as those above me on the income ladder pay theirs. If not, then I'm going to get belligerent about this. Enough's enough.

Monday, November 08, 2010

How We Got Here

As usual, The Onion nailed it. The greatest strength of a democracy such as ours is the potential to have the government we want. The greatest weakness is that we get the government we deserve.

Let’s leave aside how many people do or don’t vote. Voter levels aren’t really the problem. I’ll all for making it a little harder to register to vote in the first place, as someone too lazy to do even that probably isn’t going to extend himself when it comes time to have his say. Too many sheeple (as the Beloved Spouse calls them) on both sides of the aisle do this.

Disagree? That’s your right, but I dis-disagree back atcha. Consider health care reform, probably the most controversial law passed by the current Congress. The people are about evenly divided. About 47-48% are for it, and 47-48% are against it. (The other 5-6% don’t understand the question.) Here’s where it gets complicated. Individual components of the law are overwhelmingly popular, ebven with those who want to get rid of it.

Should your insurance provider be allowed to drop you because you actually got sick? No one wants that. How about doing away with lifetime caps? People like that, too. Allowing children to remain covered under their parents’ policies up to age 26 if the kids’ employers don’t pick them up? Sounds good to most folks. How about lowering health care costs by standardizing forms and lowering administrative overhead? No one complaining about that.

No one thinks kids should be denied coverage due to a pre-existing condition. People who are trying to eat healthier want to be able to see the nutritional information on what they’re considering at a restaurant. Despite overwhelming approval of these (and other) aspects of the law, the polling numbers show many of the people who like these things still want to repeal the law that provides them.

There are people today who are paying for, or reluctantly doing without, end-of-life planning, who know it’s a good thing, and yet screamed foul words at their congressman two summers ago because of the “death panels.” These folks didn’t realize the death panels they were so upset about were the same end-of-life care and advice they’re so worried about now. All they knew was that attention whore Sarah Palin told them these were bad. I don’t know what to say about those who became hysterical over the idea of the government running Medicare; Medicare is, and has always been, a government program, and, as the level of vitriol indicated, a highly popular one.

People argue there will be fraud. Of course there will; it can’t be helped. There has never been a large program, in either the public or the private sector, that didn’t have fraud. There’s Social Security fraud, and we know well how people feel about shutting down that government program. (Socialist government program, no less.) The trick is to weed it out as well as we can, while understanding you can’t eliminate it. No one is served if 99 people are hurt just so one guy can’t get over.

American voters aren’t bad people. They are short-sighted and gullible. Looking two steps down the road seems to be beyond most of them. They see Problem A and Glenn Beck proposes Solution B, and no one cares that it will not only not eradicate the problem it was intended to solve, but will also create Condition C, which is almost as bad as A, but just not to me personally.

Think, people. Others can advise you, but only you can do the actual thinking. And it’s way past time we got busy about it.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Truer Words Never Were Writ

I'll have more to say on this later, but it seems appropriate to point to The Onion for the 500th post here. Thanks to both of you for reading.

Election Post Mortem

The election is finally over. Wow, that sure was fun.

The Democrats, always suspect for their political acumen, passed three pieces of legislation more important than anything since the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, and still got their asses handed to them by the Republicans, whose entire platform was, “If they want it, we’re agin it.” Senate Minority Leader (And I use the word “leader” with trepidation, due to my respect for the English language) Mitch McConnell has publicly stated the Republicans’ sole policy goal is to get Barack Obama out of office. (More on McConnell later.) These were the cornerstones of an historic election reversal of fortune.

The Democrats’ errors were legion. Their presumed leader, the President, invested exactly none of the political capital he’d earned from the 2008 election. The stimulus? Enough (barely) to keep the ox from falling completely into the ditch, but not enough to turn things around. This was no secret, yet he acceded to the advice of political gurus like Rahm Emanuel, who told him a stimulus that was 2/3 of what had been recommended was all he could get votes for. It probably was. That’s not the point. Negotiating against yourself is always a bad idea. Obama should have come out asking for the $1.2 trillion, rolled it back as necessary to get passage (which might still have been more than he got), and showed the Republicans to be the obstructionists they were, wholly unconcerned with the fact that people were suffering. He then compounded the error by saying this was the package he’d always wanted—presumably so he wouldn’t appear to be weak for rolling over too easily—which made it impossible to go back for more when it proved to be inadequate.

He let Max Baucus and Harry Reid do all the heavy lifting on health care, then came in at the last minute to push it over the top, acting like this was the bill he’d wanted all along. Baucus got rolled by his alleged friend Chuck Grassley while Obama stood idly by, refusing to draw any lines. Again, the only interpretation that makes sense is that he didn’t want to appear weak by losing a battle. Instead, he proved he was weak, by exercising no leadership.

Political capital works much the same as financial capital: it has to be put to work to be worth anything. Obama’s unwillingness to invest any of his is akin to putting your life savings in a mattress. Sure, it looks like the same amount of money, but as inflation eats into it the real value grows smaller all the time. Obama became president in a time of spiraling political inflation; his mattress stash is about worthless. His efforts before the election to spin this into a failure of the voters, knowing he had so alienated his base they wouldn’t support him like they had two years ago, bankrupted him.

I said I’d get back to Mitch McConnell. He wins the Hypocrite of the Week award, no mean feat in an election week. On Wednesday, Mitch pointed to the election results and said his job now was to enforce the will of the American people, as expressed at the polls on Tuesday. His interpretation of this will matches exactly with what he has wanted to do since he got the job. (I’m sure this is entirely coincidental.) Funny, two years ago Mitch and his Republicans were on the other end of a not dissimilar butt whipping, and he had no such regard for the expressed wishes of his beloved American people.

More on those astute Americans later.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Another Milestone

The Sole Heir voted today for the first time. Texted me right after, and she was jazzed. I voted during my lunch break, more out of a sense of duty than enthusiasm. Until I got to the polling place, that is, when I got the same feeling as I have for the last 34 years. It’s just a cool thing, knowing the direction and future of a great nation—and, yes, I do think it’s great, no matter what I bitch about here—is determined wholly by tens of millions of individual decisions, all made in the privacy of a voting booth.

You don’t think so? You think money and big companies run the show? Sure they do, because we allow it. No matter how much money is available, or how distasteful the ads are, no one gets to be a senator, congressman, governor, president, alderman, councilman, delegate, whatever, unless more people vote for him—one at a time—than vote for the opponent.

It’s humbling to think about. I always feel great when I leave the polling place, no matter how I felt about the current situation or the voting choices I had. If you’re reading this on Election Day and haven’t voted yet, get your ass out there. You’ll be glad.

Yes, We're Pussies

Weather.com has posted a severe weather alert for my area. We’re in danger of frost until 9:00 AM. That’s right, frost. Pretty soon they’ll start naming dew.