Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The State of the Nation

Thanks to the Beloved Spouse for providing this link on income distribution, taxes, and trends in America. The comment section is available for any Tea partiers and "cut taxes but not any spending that will make a difference" conservatives.

I'm not counting on much of a response from those quarters.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Energy Policy

Daylight Saving Time started over the weekend for most of the United States. For years it began the first weekend of April and ended at the end of October. Then the half-asses in Washington decided we needed an energy conservation policy, so they extended it a couple of weeks on either end, like that makes the sun shine longer each day. All it really accomplished is setting my wake-up time back into what looks like the middle of the night. It also sums up Congress’s efforts to create a sustainable energy policy, just in case you thought they were too busy bickering to get any serious business done.

Monday, March 14, 2011

They Made Me Do It

I have a policy of not contributing to out-of-state political campaigns. I have a state to be politically active in, and I don’t much like others coming in from outside and telling us how to run things. If things are going to be screwed up in Maryland, they should be our screw-ups.

I’m going to make an exception for Wisconsin. Don’t misunderstand me. The ultimate blame for what’s going on there rests with the voters. They elected these bastards; a large part of me says they can live with them.

The problem is, Wisconsin’s Republicans are the tip of the spear. They get away with this here, their peers will be emboldened in Ohio, Indiana, New Jersey, and probably Pennsylvania. Down this road lies the status of a second-rate nation, one that can’t—or won’t—care for those who can’t take care of themselves and is incapable of educating its population to do more than what they’re told.

Imagine a Japan-esque disaster in this country with Mike brown in charge of FEMA. We have continued to elect politicians who campaign on the platform that government is the problem, then make every effort to ensure government will be the problem once they’re in power. We then express astonishment and dismay when they do what anyone who looked closely at their record should have known they’d do.

The Republican response to “tax and spend” Democrats is to dismantle government, except for the pieces that directly benefit them. A line has to be drawn somewhere to show liberals aren’t, in the words of Peter Moskos, “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” Wisconsin is as good a place as any to start.

The check goes in the mail today to help to recall the Republican senators and governor. Enough is enough.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Circling the Drain

I have reached the age where thinking about the end game of life is more than an abstract concept. My health is fine, and I fully expect to be around at least another twenty-five years, but what were casual thoughts in my thirties are now concrete obstacles that must either be dealt with or maneuvered around. I’m hoping to get to retirement before the current political climate makes the working economy unendurable, with the idea that Social Security and Medicare will remain relatively intact for a while longer, as the ability of Republicans and the Tea Party to play groups against each other there is minimal. No  one wants old people living under bridges, scrounging meals from Dumpsters. I hope.

What is most discouraging is that I see no way not to leave my daughter and grandchildren a worse country than I inherited. I have no delusions, there; the country I inherited had plenty of issues. I was born before meaningful civil rights legislation, during the Cold War (though, thankfully, no wars of the shooting variety), not too long after Joe McCarthy’s self-serving inquisition. It was also a time when working people could join the middle class and not have to live from paycheck to paycheck and could reasonably expect their children to go to college and improve themselves, attitudes that only increased in the Sixties.

What will I leave? A country where “every man for himself” has more significant meaning than any time since the Oklahoma land rush. No fiscal responsibility in government or the population that elects it. Fiscal responsibility? Hell, there’s no fiscal sanity. Political “leaders’ tell us we have to cut the deficit by trimming only programs that make up about 12% of the government; Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid are off-limits. Tax increases, even for those who have most benefitted by the frenzy of tax reduction in upper income strata, is unmentionable in civil discourse.

So cuts to “discretionary” spending it must be. You know what constitutes “discretionary” spending? Food safety inspections. Occupational safety. Prescription drug testing. Highways and infrastructure. Education. People in Pennsylvania can light their tap water with a match due to gases released from a coal-mining technique known as fracking, and the governor is working to make the regulations less stringent.

The salient purposes of government are to protect the population, to provide what individuals cannot provide for themselves, and to level the playing field at least enough to prevent the advantaged running roughshod over those with less power. Not here. Not anymore. Now it’s to pad the lives of those who can best afford to take advantage of the system. Corporations have more rights than people.

I hope my time doesn’t come for a while yet. There are things I want to do, and people I want to spend time with. But when it does come, I’m not going to miss this shit one bit. I’ll just feel badly I wasn’t able to think of anything productive to do about it.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Still Pretending He’s the Cavalry

From today’s Wonkbook summary, by the Washington Post’s Ezra Klein:

With the stopgap funding bill safely through Congress and the federal government given a two-week reprieve, the White House has decided to get in the game more directly: They've invited congressional leaders to sit down with Vice President Joe Biden, Chief of Staff William Daley, and budget director Jack Lew to hammer out a deal.

You could imagine a great beer commercial coming out of this: The wonks and legislators are deadlocked until someone brings in an ice-cold case of Miller Lite. Suddenly, it's all backslapping and "of course revenue should be on the table" and "you're right that government needs to spend less" and "sorry about that whole Planned Parenthood thing." And I haven't even mentioned the disco ball.

But can you imagine a great budget deal coming out of this? This is the same play the White House ran to resolve the tax debate: they waited till the last minute, when inaction was about to force unwelcome consequences, and then they gathered the players in a room with Tim Geithner and Jack Lew and had Joe Biden act as shuttle envoy to Mitch McConnell. Despite the skepticism of people like, well, me, it worked. Maybe it'll work again. But the downside here, much like the downside there, is that the White House has taken ownership over the process, and they will get much of the credit or much of th blame for whether it works and what it produces.

This is the same thing President Comfortable Shoes has done since Day One: wait until a situation hits crisis mode, then come in late, thus taking credit for what results. Health insurance reform, financial overhaul, taxes, and now this.

It’s not leadership’ it’s opportunism. Granted, he doesn’t have a lot of political capital to spend right now, having pissed much of it away doing what was described in the previous paragraph. Still, he thinks this is the way to go, consequences to the 99.9% of people who just want to get along with their lives be damned.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

March 1

March 1 is a special day at The Home Office. Because of March 1, the grass is greener and the sky is bluer. I am more often happy, and, when I'm not, the unhappiness is not as deep, nor does it last as long.

Thanks to March 1, I find humor in ordinary things. I am more patient, and less likely to assume malicious intent when things don't go my way. My health is better. Honest to God. I am a better friend and a better son and generally a better person to be around.

The Beloved Spouse and The Sole Heir both drew their first breaths on March 1.

Happy birthday, ladies.