Monday, January 30, 2012

January Heat

Around here, it used to be normal to have several days in a row of sub-zero temperatures at this time of year. It used to be that we'd have two or three months straight of temperatures in the single digits and teens, never rising to above 25 on even the best days. I remember being kept home from school because it was so cold (think -15). But that's not reality anymore.

Today, the high temperature here is a comfortable 35 degrees. By mid-week, it's supposed to be sitting in the 40's, a temperature that would have been unheard of a decade ago. Instead of long, drawn-out cold, we now have a constant up-and-down of high temperatures, but nothing like it used to be. Sure, there may be the occasional day where the temperature dips down into the single digits, but it doesn't last long.

I know my personal observations do not prove global warming, but it seems to me that we are seeing some very dramatic changes in the temperatures for this time of year. Whenever it gets cold, the political pundits on the radio always joke about how it just proves that "global warming" is a sham. Well, I haven't heard any of those jokes yet this year, and they were never in good taste anyway. After all, these same radio jocks never said a word when the temperature peaked 40 in January, or we had rain for three days straight after Christmas.

As this cool visual shows, the temperature of the Earth has been erratic in the past, but is clearly rising over time, especially since the 1980s. There are a lot of factors that go into global warming, but the human component is easily the most contested. I find it ironic that we have to debate whether we have an impact on our environment when we burn millions of gallons of fossil fuels daily, we build massive cities, we dump waste into our water system, and we pollute our land with landfills and trash.

I've said it many times, but I'll say it again. We have only one planet to live on, and that's it. This planet does not have infinite resources and does not have the capacity to house an infinite number of humans. We currently have a crisis on our hands when it comes to climate change, but we let politics, money, and environmental atheists control the discussion. We don't use common sense, and we aren't looking to the future. We are looking at our current state and thinking that this is how it will be in ten years. But why? Why should we believe that. In ten years, there could be no ice at the North Pole. There could be extinction of who knows how many species as a result of climate change. We could tip the scales of our planet's ability to support life.

My last point on this is to consider Venus. The planet Venus is very much like Earth, or at least it was at one time. Now it is completely lifeless, and so adverse to living organisms that we can't even send probes in to see what it looks like beneath the clouds. The reason I bring it up here is because Venus is what Earth could very well be in the future. Venus suffers from having too many greenhouse gases in its atmosphere. It has huge amounts of CO2 and CO, which trap the heat from the sun. Normally, Venus might have been able to support some life, but the extra gases in the atmosphere have caused the planet to retain excess heat from the sun, raising the temperature to the thousands of degrees. A similar process is happening here. We are pumping huge amounts of various greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. Those gases can be trapped by plants, but we don't have enough plant coverage to completely negate what we're giving off. In the end, it could come back to haunt us, but no one thinks of these things. No one looks even ten years down the road. It's worth a look, but we have to change our course if we want to avoid catastrophe.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Co-Opted Industry

In his weekly op-ed piece, Krugman takes a look at how the two different sides of American politics see the economy and how it works.

Krugman uses Mitch Daniels's response to the SOTU as a launch pad for this discussion. Where conservatives see strong, singular companies as the backbone of the economy, the fact is "successful companies...don’t exist in isolation." The example in the article is Apple, which Mitch Daniels praised for it's record of creating American jobs. However, Apple has very few people working for them in America. In fact, the vast majority of their workers are overseas, mostly in China.

And, as Krugman notes, it's not just because of lower wages. The reason places like China and Germany (which pays its workers much more than the US and still has higher exports) are taking our jobs is because of synergy between companies. In China, there are clusters of companies all together, and workers for them nearby. What that means is that it is much cheaper to gather the things needed to make products. Because these co-op type areas are so efficient, they can produce things at a faster, cheaper rate.

So, what can America do to compete? We could create these industrial clusters if we wanted. We could construct a large number of businesses that all operate for each other and fill them with workers. But the conservative mindset that was described by Daniels rejects that idea as being a moot point. It's single businesses, not collective groups, that drive the economy.

Krugman points to one other example: the auto bailout. The reason this was such a success can only be seen if you look at it from the perspective of all these industries being connected. Say the bailout hadn't happened, and GM and Chrysler had gone under. Well, the businesses that supplied their materials would also take a hit, meaning they would have suffered and possibly closed. Those same companies provided materials to Ford, meaning Ford may have collapsed as well. It's a domino effect that would have crippled the American economy and cost millions of jobs. Fortunately, it didn't happen.

So, co-opting business is a sound economic principle. Consider any company, and you will notice that that company can't exist without others. It's impossible without comoplete vertical integration (and even then, still difficult). If we can adopt this idea into our economic structure, and respond to industry with this kind of understanding, perhaps we could fashion better solutions to market problems.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Winning a battle, Losing a war

It was a big win for the internet last week when the SOPA and PIPA bills were shelved by Congress, effectively ending the fight to keep the internet free. Well, not exactly.

You see, while SOPA and PIPA were big victories, the big picture is that America has already sold out to corporate interests when it comes to the internet. But it's not just the internet. It's the patent process, it's anything that can be marketed and owned. In fact, the war has already been won world-wide, we just haven't noticed.

The war over the freedom of information was lost at the hands of ACTA, which stands for Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement. Back in 2007, ACTA was passed by the EU, the US, and a number of other countries as a way to control copyrighted and trademarked material, specifically intellectual property. However, ACTA also encompassed things like name-brand medication, GMOs, and other items used by the public, meaning those who owned these items could shut down generic alternatives and start-up competitors. As the article linked above by E.D. Kain remarks, "Worse, it appears to go much further than the internet, cracking down on generic drugs and making food patents even more radical than they are by enforcing a global standard on seed patents that threatens local farmers and food independence across the developed world."

So, what can we do about ACTA? Unlike SOPA and PIPA, it's already been on the books for several years. It has likely had a hand in companies like Monsanto taking over entire industries by using it as carte blanche to shut down smaller competitors and makers of generic alternatives. In the case of Monsanto, a company that controls roughly 98% of our nation's corn production, small independent farmers have been hauled into court for planting corn that has been mixed with Monsanto's product, whether accidentally or on purpose. It's possible that a bird could have dropped a Monsanto seed in a farmer's field, or that a Monsanto worker deliberately tossed a seed in with the rest. It doesn't matter in either case, because ACTA allows Monsanto to shut down that farm simply because the farmer had a Monsanto corn crop in their field.

There really is nothing that can be done, short of completely overwhelming Congress with activists who will stop ACTA cold. The problem is, many groups that benefit from the law are likely the same ones that are bankrolling political campaigns. It also doesn't help that most Americans didn't know that ACTA was passed at the time. I don't remember seeing any headlines for it, or hearing any public discussion on it.

Life has gone on pretty much as it did though, right? Possibly. But the ACTA law has certainly contributed to the growing stress on new businesses trying to make it in the marketplace, or the growing power of major corporations. With laws like ACTA, the government has the ability to shut down any website or business that they think violates copyrights. That's a lot of power, and in the wrong hands or with the wrong influence, it is a cornerstone of oppression. I hope that more people learn about ACTA, and try to fight it off as best they can. Unfortunately, it may be too late.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SOTU 2012 Review

Last night was President Obama's SOTU address. As usual, the POTUS was eloquent, optimistic, and a bit long-winded. The full transcript can be read here.

The pervasive message of Obama's speech was that there should be a level playing field in the economy. He called for more equal taxation, more investment in American jobs, and a recommitment to bipartisan discussion in Washington over these issues.

There was a lot of discussion following the address from both sides of the aisle. Some people thought the President did well, some didn't. The GOP response was, in my opinion, terribly partisan and more divisive than Obama's speech. Along with the GOP presidential candidates, there wasn't much voiced support for the President's views. It's sad, since I think Obama was trying to be very nonpartisan with his address.

Overall, I think it went well, but I don't think it changed many minds. Those who supported the President still do, and those that don't still don't. At this point, I think most people know where they fall, and that is a very sad observation to make this far from an election. It means people are voting more for party than policy, and that does not bode well for our country.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Biology

An interesting study was conducted that seems to link biology with political inclination. It makes sense, I guess, but one could argue that past experience has a lot do with it also (the whole nature vs. nurture thing).

Keep History True

Not too long ago, the Texas State Board of Education passed a group of amendments to the social studies curriculum for their state. The changes were seen by many as a white-washing of American history, including glossing over (and in some cases celebrating) slavery, criticizing affirmative action, and generally ignoring the genocide of the Native Americans by the US government.

Now, a group in Tennessee wants to do the same thing, but to a greater degree. Specifically, they want to remove any mention of the fact that the founding fathers were slave owners, that they lived in a nation that used slave labor, and again removing mentions of American-orchestrated genocide.

The reason the Texas changes were so important is that Texas is one of the largest purchasers of textbooks, and many states buy the same editions as Texas. Some publishers only offer editions that Texas approves, limiting the availability for other states.

There is something profoundly disturbing about trying to erase parts of American history. In my view, the dark, corrupt parts of American history are some of the most important to preserve, so that we can remember what we came from and remind ourselves not to go back.

shouldn't America's children be taught the truth? Or is it something that promotes the wrong ideas? It seems to me that these groups want to promote American exceptionalism to the point of insanity. America may be exceptional, but that's not to say it has always been perfect. To cut the darker parts of our history, to gloss over what happened here, is a slap in the face to our nation. Students need to know the truth, no matter what. You may not go into detail about slavery with 1st grade students, but it should be openly discussed in, say, high school. By censoring history, we are letting a part of our nation die, the part that helped us to establish empathy. We as a nation have done some monstrous things. It's sad, but it is the truth, and we must preserve that, no matter what.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Six of one....

0120zyglis


A great cartoon here depicting the hilarity of the GOP's reaction to Obama shelving the pipeline project.

Obama has put forth a number of bills to help bring jobs to America. He's proposed high speed rail projects, increased spending on construction and infrastructure through stimulus, and direct tax incentives to businesses who hire. Throughout all of this, the GOP has put its foot down and stopped it. But when the GOP pushes a pipeline that Obama blocks, they attack the President for not supporting job creation.

And there are a number of reasons why this is annoying. The XL pipeline, for one thing, may create jobs but would not help our dependence on foreign oil as some have said. Second, government agencies had not yet finished their required paperwork to make sure the pipeline would be safe and non-invasive to the environment. It's those nasty regulations creeping up again. But perhaps the most telling thing is that the governor of Nebraska has actually given permission for the pipeline and started construction in certain parts of his state. The problem, though, is that those in Nebraska did not like the original plan because of where the pipeline would fall.

So, the State Department hasn't finished it's job, the state has already started some construction work, and teh GOP is still not happy because what they knew would happen all along happened: Obama said he wouldn't support it.

As the cartoon points out, this is a bit of a hypocritical point for the GOP to make, since they stimied Obama's job-growth plans for years, and even congratulated themselves on stopping Obama's bills when they knew they would help the economy. They also knew full well that this pipeline was not going anywhere, yet they have continually railed against it for two reasons. First, it's a great talking point, and can be used a la Solyndra as many times as needed. Second. it gives them a bargaining chip. On its own might not be worth much, but because of the "public outcry" over it, it has become a major part of the talks in Washington. It's been tied to tax bills, giving the GOP a way to say that Obama is against his own tax cuts as well as jobs. In short, it's a pundit's dream.

Fragile State

Paul Krugman discusses his vision of where our economy is and where it's headed. While he is being cautiously optimistic, he does point to some numbers that indicate a step in the right direction. As usual, Krugman counters the American situation with that of Europe.

In Europe, according to Krugman, the problems of the economy have been made worse because the solutions of those lawmakers have ignored the problem driving the recession: personal debt. Krugman points out that the single greatest drag on our economy at the moment is the debt held by the average consumer.

It's debt that keeps people from investing, keeps people from buying and taking risks with their money. And, with the added uncertainty of the job market, it's no wonder that investment has been slow in getting started. But new numbers are showing that the trend may be starting to turn. Mostly, it has to do with consumer debt and construction numbers, which are both tied to housing. If housing turns around, helped along by construction and consumer confidence, the markets will come back to life.

Of course, this kind of thing doesn't happen overnight. Just as the housing bubble that led to the crisis took several years to grow (not to mention the time it took to create the right regulatory system), it will take a long time to get out from underneath that mess. Much longer than any one president has in office. The best way to see results is to pick a plan and stick to it. In other words, don't change things in the middle of a recovery. This is one of the big issues that's facing Europe. They are constantly changing their approach to how they address this issue. They are struggling through a worse time than we are because they are working off of the conservative playbook.

To relate this back to American politics, take a moment to consider the policies of the GOP candidates. Even if you don't agree, imagine what their policies would do to personal debt in this country, and by extension, the American economy. Their policies, things like cutting social benefit programs and unemployment, would cause personal debt to skyrocket. This would further slow the economy, since people would be less likely to buy, and we would see a slump. On the other hand, if we continue to fund these programs, giving people a hand in managing their debt, we have a chance of pulling ourselves out of recession. Things like food stamps are temporary aids to help families get through tough economic times. That way, they do not become slaves to their debt, often times debt that is a result of education or health care costs beyond their control.

Lifting the burden of debt from the shoulders of American citizens is a great step to moving forward in our economy. If we can do that, we may very well see ourselves on the road to recovery. Again, it will take time. America is not known as a patient nation. But we should try to be, for our own sake.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Protecting those who matter

One of the more infamous consequences of the ongoing financial turmoil in America is that state and local governments have been cutting money from programs to save their budgets. In some cases, this has led to reductions in the number of police and firefighters on duty. In others, it's meant forcing people to buy into a program so that their homes can be saved from fire (if they don't pay, their homes are lost). In some cases, laws are changed or thrown out to reduce the amount of time and money spent by law enforcement to enforce those laws.

Awhile ago, there was a case in Topeka Kansas where local officials sought to decriminalize domestic assault. The idea was that such a measure would save money by no longer forcing police to arrest, charge, detain, and process perpetrators of domestic assault. The outcry over this plan was so great that the officials backed off, and left the law alone.

But a law of similar nature was recently passed in New Hampshire by the state congress. The law weakens domestic violence laws and changes the standards under which a person may be arrested and tried for domestic assault.

The most alarming piece of this is that, under the new law, police officers must directly witness a domestic assault in order to make an arrest. That means, if a police officer arrives on the scene and sees a woman bleeding on the ground with bruises all over her, they can't do anything since they didn't witness the assault. Not only is this reprehensible from a moral standpoint, it is doubly upseting that this is the plan used to cut state costs.

Other legislation that passed in New Hampshire Congress this week is a bill that strips Planned Parenthood of any and all public funding, despite the fact that abortions only account for 3% of their services, public money is not allowed to fund abortions anyway, and the other 97% of the services provided by PP help the poor and disadvantaged. So, rather than stopping abortion, they've now simply stopped preventative health care for poor women.

While measures like this will save the state money, one has to wonder what the non-financial costs will be? No doubt there will be more domestic violence that goes unresolved, less support for women to stay healthy, fewer cancer screenings, less access to preventative medicine, and fewer protections for women in the state of New Hampshire. Considering all of that, is it reasonable to say that saving money is a better option? And that these services and laws are the best way to save money?

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Long and Winding Road

A great article by Andrew Sullivan in Newsweek, which has attracted criticism from some Obama detractors. Ironically, the criticism has mostly been about Sullivan himself, not the article's contents, so I leave it to you to decide whether it's legitimate critique or character assassination.

The point that Sullivan makes in the article, which runs 4 pages on the site, is that Obama has been playing a 2-term political game. He's not been doing these short-term gains and big blowout political moves to get brownie points with his base. He's been slow, deliberate, and direct, and that strategy is paying off. The great thing about the article is that it goes right down the list of issues that Obama has tackled. It even points out how the extreme Leftists have been criticizing Obama for not being their Liberal Liberator.

This last point is worth mentioning since the Right has been criticizing the POTUS throughout his term as being an extreme leftist. If  this is the case, why is the extreme Left upset with him? The fact is, Obama has done a very good job on a number of issues. While I don't agree with him on everything (see my last post and the link there for examples), he's done very well with what he stepped into, and I believe that his strategy has worked.

That means, though, that he will only have accomplished half his goals if he is booted in November. I, for one, believe that he should have a second term to continue his work. No doubt it will be difficult, especially when the sole purpose of the GOP has been to oust him since 2010. But if anyone can work their way to victory, it's Obama. His slow, measured, purposeful pace will annoy some, but it will get results. And while he's keeping his head down and refraining from making a fool of himself, his opponent(s) will self-destruct.

It may take a long time to fully appreciate what Obama has done to help our economy and society. It may very well be that the propaganda against him will win out and he'll be labeled a failure of a president. But I don't think so. He has enough successes under his belt already to at least deserve positive mention in history books. And if he continues for another four years, I'm willing to bet we'll see his end-game come to fruition in a way that helps lift this country closer to prosperity. Just don't count on it being acknowledged by the Right...or the Left.

Rolling Blackouts

By now, most people have probably heard about the planned blackouts for sites like Wikipedia and Reddit. If you go to these sites today, you'll see messages explaining why they have blocked access to their sites today.

While this might seem like an extreme measure, keep in mind that this is likely what would happen to the internet of the SOPA and PIPA bills pass. These bills would force many sites to shut down because of posted content that is considered copyrighted. The internet has always been the most freeform network for information because it was not controlled by any one person or even any group. It was organically engineered by people like me who simply went out there and started something. That is the glory of the internet, and it is a disastrous plan to limit that freedom for the express purpose of giving private businesses and wealthy people more power and control over our media.

In many ways, the SOPA and PIPA bills are simply par for the course when you look at the other things we have given up "for our own good". Consider this list, which outlines some of the more notorious rights violations that we have put up with now for some time. This kind of thing happens all the time, but we as Americans don't seem to be able to stay angry and outspoken long enough for there to be much impact. We have collectively forgotten the Patriot Act, and we hear next to nothing on the indefinite detention of American citizens anymore. Our media is steering us away from these controversial decisions, and now we are seeing that control of information being applied to the internet.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Higher education, lower results

An article by the Huffington Post recently discussed Mitt Romney's views on higher education. Romney's views may not be the greatest, but what astounded me were the statistics that the article boasts.

We've been hearing a lot about how college education costs are going way up as states cut back community college funding. Yet, as the article points out, for-profit schools still charge five times more. And, less of their money goes towards helping students. More and more is going towards administrative and executive paychecks, not to student welfare and programs. It's the same problem that private businesses get into: giving all their money to the top, and letting those at the bottom suffer.

It's an interesting problem, especially since many conservatives have problems with community colleges, cite their rising tuition as evidence of their failing, and strongly promote private, for-profit, and more expensive schooling.

It's the same problem that faces public schools at the moment: states cut budgets, which reduces school effectiveness, which is used as carte blanche by some politicians to promote private and charter schools. It's crazy to suggest that private institutions should be compared to public ones, and that the public ones should be found lacking, when the same people who make these comparisons are the ones that promote cutting the budgets of the public schools in the first place.

Income Inequality: The New Civil Rights Movement

With MLK Day now over, and most people's reflection safely behind them, it is time to return our thoughts to matters of today's concerns. But the lessons of MLK are not historical benchmarks in our society; they resonate even today. One area they seem prominent is in the growing gap between wealthy and poor.

As Paul Krugman notes in this week's editorial, it is very likely that MLK would be very disheartened by our country's current system. We have a socio-economic ladder that has become increasingly difficult to climb, a wider and ever-increasing chasm between rich and poor that can't be traversed, and fewer people able and willing to challenge this status quo.

Part of the problem is that those who have engineered this gap see it as being an important part of America. It is the challenge gap, the way for those at the bottom to prove themselves worthy of being at the top. They will cite the prodigies, the few lucky ones who have stepped out of poverty to become successful, and use them as the benchmark, saying that if one can do it, all can do it. This is like saying that, since one man can build a particle accelerator and understand how it works, anybody can.

The other mindset is that the gap doesn't exist, or at least not in the proportions being reported. This view essentially disregards reams of data from the census office, ignores historical evidence to suggest that the gap was not always this way, and instead relies on the comfortable but misleading notion that those at the bottom got there due to their own laziness and those at the top deserve it.

What MLK demanded was that these views be changed. To suggest that those at the bottom are benefiting from a wealth gap is the same logic that was used when segregation was supported in the South; it benefited everyone, including African Americans. And to suggest that such disparity doesn't exist, or is the fault of those who have nothing is to disregard the causes of this gap, the reasons it exists, its immense impact on American life, and who it is the engineers its continued growth. Is it the fault of the poor that their jobs are taken away, or that their homes have suddenly jumped in value? Is it the fault of the person who has grown up poor and without services that they continue that trend with their own family? Time and time again, we see that the cycles of society go on. The poor who are not helped end up raising children in the same conditions.  The cycles need to be broken. It is time.

As Krugman asserts, this is our new Civil Rights Movement. It is our chance to stand up and demand livable wages, good jobs, and opportunities. It is our time to demand that the gap be closed, that the middle class be awoken, and that our society becomes the center of greatness once again. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's challenged what was accepted, what was understood, and what was agreed to by society at large. Now, we have to do the same. We have to challenge the idea that the poor are poor by their own actions, that helping them is a waste, and that those at the top are there because of their own intrinsic value to society. They are no more or less human than anyone else. They are Americans, like you and I. Nothing more, and nothing less. That they are at the top may be due to hard work, or family, or luck, or fate. Those who earn their fortunes have every right to keep it. but those who are a victim of circumstance should have the knowledge that they, too, can rise to bigger and better things if they put in that effort. Today, that promise is an illusion. It is wasted. No one believes in it. We have to show that it can be done, that hard work can pay off, and the only way to do that is to even out the playing field, revitalize our society, and bring us back into harmony.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Disappointing

Despite the strides we have made to extinguish racism, discrimination, and their twisted siblings, this article shows how far we have yet to go. Groups like Youth for Western Civilization prove that there are still hurdles to stopping discrimination, and that when these groups are legitimized (such as by being a noted co-sponsor of CPAC), their views are legitimized simultaneously.

There is a reason that Nazism is not tolerated in America. Sure, people have the right to express that personal belief, but to do so openly is about as socially suicidal as you can get. People denounce organizations like the KKK and the Nazis because of their discrimination and hate, but also because if we don't make a point of denouncing them, it is as if we condone their actions and beliefs.

The YWC is an advocate for reducing "multi-culturalism" and claim that it is the bridging of cultural divides that is destroying all of western civilization. Like so many groups whose views are thinly veiled avenues of hatred, they say that the world is spinning out of control, and that we must stop our progression towards common ground and mutual respect to regain control.

Bunch of stuff

There hasn't been much to talk about in the last few days aside from the primary race, which I'm already annoyed with. So, in the interest of saving myself time, here's a list of little articles and topics that I found interesting.

1. Obama is asking Congress for the authority to merge different government agencies to reduce double-standards, red tape, and probably costs. The idea is to consolidate groups that do similar tasks to see if they can be bundled together for more efficient operation. Considering this would probably save money, and reduce the size and complexity of government, the GOP may actually grant Obama this power. It also doesn't hurt that Reagan had and used this tactic himself.

2. Representative Diane Black of Tennessee released a statement saying that she would be putting forth a bill that condemns Obama's recess appointments as being unconstitutional...as soon as she gets back from congressional recess. The pervasive argument has been that Obama's appointments were not made while Congress was in recess because they were holding pro forma sessions to technically "stay in session." However, legal experts (and history) argue that Obama exercised his rights lawfully and his appointments are therefore legitimate. The reddest of the red conservatives have been calling for impeachment proceedings to get underway over this. Not sure if that will happen since the DOJ has already said that Obama's appointments are appropriate and legal.

3. Democrats believe that they may have a shot at taking over the House in the next election. While I feel that's a bit too optimistic, I do believe that they'll be able to pick up some seats. I think it's pretty clear that the American people have laid a good amount of blame on Congress for doing nothing to help the economy and the job situation. I think that most Americans feel a lot of frustration with the GOP especially, since they rode into prominence on the promise that they would make Washington work better for the country. So far, it hasn't happened, and I believe that they will see some backlash from that.

4. Krugman has come out with his weekly op-ed, this time punching holes in the misled belief that America is a corporation. Focusing on the recent words of Mitt Romney, Krugman jumps into a great discourse on why America is not a business and cannot be run like one. As I've said before, the government must operate certain parts of our country at a direct loss of revenue, something no business would ever do. Things like Education, health care, and social service programs generate absolutely no direct revenue for the government's investment. Yet, they should pay for these programs because they have long-term benefits for the recipients. As Krugman notes in his piece, cutting a business's bottom line may be solid practice (at least for those at the top), but cutting the government's bottom line leads to problems like those in Europe right now. Once again, Krugman has made a very important and very relevant point about our nation.

5. Finally, Monday is MLK Day. State government's are closed, schools teach valuable civil and human rights lessons, and the nation reflects on the wisdom and life of one of our most esteemed citizens. From one of the darkest corners of American history, Martin Luther King Jr. rose up to be a commanding voice for change. He challenged what was acceptable and expected. He fought against governments, against police, against the law, against society, all in the name of equality and justice. He inspired a generation, and continues to inspire those who know his story. We as a nation have come a long way since his time, yet we still have far to go. The stain of prejudice is still present in many places, and continues to corrupt our nation. The memory of MLK has been preserved in our hearts and minds, even as there are those who would seek to change our view of this great leader among mankind. His life is an example to all of us, that we must stand up for what we believe, no matter what the world says is true or right or acceptable. We must demand the change that we wish to see in the world; we must live that change, be that change. MLK taught a nation to look to a person's heart, not their skin, to determine their worth. So, on Monday, reflect on where we are, where we have come from, where we are going, and what you can do to take us there.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Buffet's got balls

Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest, most successful men in modern times, has become a voice of reason when it comes to taxing the rich. Worth $45 Billion himself, he's been challenging Congress to raise his taxes, something the GOP has refused to do. Instead, they decided to come up with a way for people to contribute money above and beyond their tax obligation to the government to help with the deficit and debt. It was meant to be a jab at Buffet, but Buffet has jabbed right back.

Buffet has said in a recent interview that he agreed to match the contributions made by all of congress. In fact, he said, he would pay 3:1 for anything Mitch McConnell, one of Buffet's primary detractors, agreed to donate. Buffet, who said that he isn't all that worried about his challenge, has been one of the greatest advocates for increasing taxes on the wealthy.

What I like about Buffet is that, aside from being down-to-earth and a great philanthropist, he's willing to tell it like it is, put his money where his mouth is, and do what he knows is best for the country. He also knows that, no matter what he contributes, it won't mean a thing if it's just him. That's why he was advocating for the change in the tax policy.

One of the other interesting things about Buffet is how he has treated his children. His son was interested in farming, and has a farm that he runs himself. But Buffet hasn't given him a penny. In fact, almost none of Warren Buffet's money is slated to go to his children; it will mostly be donated to Buffet's charities or business. Warren Buffet, it seems, believes his children should make their own way, do what they wish to do, and should earn themselves the kind of success that their father did. In a way, it's the complete opposite of many other wealthy families, who simply take advantage of the incredibly low estate tax and hand their money off to their children.

I hope that Warren Buffet can get more people to follow his example and demand an increase in their taxes. I hope that more people from the top 1% will challenge their children to succeed instead of just handing them a fortune and calling it good. Those who can afford to pay more should, and when that happens, maybe we won't have to worry so much about deficits and debts anymore. Maybe.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Like Pulling Teeth

A new report from a watchdog group in Washington explains that the IRS is unable to do its job because of budget cuts and increased workload.

So, not only is our country going through a recession, but the government has gone to such drastic lengths to cut spending that they have crippled the agency that collects their revenue. It's like pulling teeth: with every one, it gets harder and harder to take in the nutrients needed to survive. Pretty soon, our government isn't going to be able get anything except soft, bland food.

The IRS is probably the most despised agency in government, especially at this time of year. However, it serves a vital function. Like all vital functions, it works best when it has everything it needs. With the recent spending cuts and the changes in tax policy, the IRS has been relying more and more on computer programs and automation for dealing with taxes and trying to weed out fraud. This has led to a variety of errors, which has taken more time and money to sort out.

The problem is that the IRS doesn't have the funding to hunt down tax cheats. It doesn't have the money to go after those who break the law, and certainly not enough to process taxes faster. But this is their job and they have to do the best they can.

Wouldn't it be in the government's own best interest to collect all the money it's entitled to? I sure think so. Then, maybe we can stop worrying about people cheating the system and defrauding the government.

Cutting the costs of War

Obama recently came out with a plan to reduce the DOD budget by about $300 Billion. This would end a number of defense contracts, close military bases in various regions of the world, and help to create a more lean, mean military. No doubt there will be people on both sides of this issue, fighting to preserve and fighting to stop this plan.

Interestingly, Republicans will likely say that such a plan is no good, citing national security and (very ironically) jobs as being the primary victims of these spending cuts. It's worth pointing out that much of this money is in fact slated for paying off defense contracts to private US companies who may very well lay off workers if they don't get that money. What remains to be seen is if they will lay off, and why. The national security argument is an old one, and everyone should be familiar with the argument.

In some ways, the Republicans have a point. Cutting the military contracts directly impacts American workers who benefit from those engineering and construction jobs. They work for some of the largest, most prosperous private businesses in the world, and their livelihood would undoubtedly be in question if these cuts were put in place.

But Republicans have a few issues to work out of their argument. They have been claiming for years and years that government spending does not create jobs. Now, they seem poised to protect a huge portion of government spending in the name of preserving American jobs.

More importantly, though, is that the money cut from the defense budget could be funneled into other projects (say, infrastructure, education, or social programs). With that added funding, the government could contract out more work, which would create jobs. We could rebuild the roads and bridges that are continuing to crumble. We could put more funding towards education and technology. We could do more research. All of these initiatives create jobs and I'm willing to bet they would create more jobs than what were lost by cutting the funding from the defense budget.

Even if the money is simply cut out of the budget, though, it could be a good thing. After all, isn't $300 Billion a good chunk of change. It may not be everything that needs to be cut, but it's pretty close. I know that Republicans in particular have said that we can't beat around the bush, that we have to just take these massive cuts all at once, but I don't think that's the right course. I think if we were to do that, there would be a shock to system that could set us back a long way. Instead, cuts like the ones proposed by Obama are a good place to start. $300 Billion is quite a bit of money, isn't it?

The results of Austerity

This is a story that deficit hawks won't talk about. They all say that Greece is going to fail, which may be true, but they attribute that failure to what happened before Greece adopted an "austerity-only" approach to fixing their economy. As this article points out, their solution has caused much more damage than what it was meant to fix.

Greece ended up with too much debt after borrowing to cover government costs (they didn't raise taxes, or were unable to). Then, when their debt got so big that they began to default, they started trying to cut back with austerity. Meanwhile, the financial crisis in Europe drove down the value of the euro and drove up interest rates, putting Greece in an even worse position. In response, they tried even greater austerity measures.

Now, here in America, we watched all of this. Not too long ago, financial experts were saying that Greece could claw its way back if it just kept cutting. Well, some said that. Others disagreed. What matters, though, is that Greece slashed everything. They cut their spending down to drastic levels. In the theory of austerity, this should have created a boom that echoed through Europe, cleared up the debt crisis somewhat, and put Greece back in the black.

As we have seen, though, this has not happened. And what's more, things have gotten worse. With less funding, schools, hospitals, and public services can't operate to meet the growing needs of people who are suffering under an unemployment rate that jumped from 13% to 18% in a year. A year! A year of austerity. People can't get access to the public health program because its funding was slashed. There is a notable increase in crime, suicides, and drug use. And all of this means that Greek citizens aren't able to buy like they used to, driving sales downward and causing major problems for their markets. They are in a tailspin, and even the most optimistic experts now say that they are a hopeless case.

This is what austerity does to an economy. In America, we have a whole political party that prides itself on wanting to reduce the budget, cut the deficit, slash spending, etc. While some cuts may be a good idea, all-out austerity is a poor choice. In tough economic times, cutting government is not the answer, because more people rely on the government in those times. These are not people who want to be beholden to the government, but their only choice is to do that or to starve. When times are good, we can get away with reducing the budgets for things like unemployment and food stamps. But when you have record numbers of people who rely on these, it's foolish to say we need to cut them. Cutting those programs doesn't encourage people to find a job that isn't there.

Austerity measure are not the answer, especially when the economy is so rocky. Cuts can come when the economy is doing well, but we must allow the government to support us through the rough patches. Reducing government's supports for the American people when they need those supports the most is a foolish decision. I hope that this is not the course the country will be taken in. The consequences could be and will be dire.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Unlevel Playing Field

In another great article, Paul Krugman explains how our unlevel playing field, from birth on, is causing some major issues for our society.

As Krugman points out at the beginning, the idea of "equal opportunity" has been somewhat hijacked. First, it has been associated with "equal outcomes" which is the opposite concept. Equal outcomes is equivalent to income redistribution, and putting everyone at the same level, regardless of how much they work or not. "Equal Opportunity," on the other hand, has to do with ensuring that everyone starts at the same place, has equal chance of success, and is not limited by their environments. As the article points out, this is a theory that is vocally favored by everyone, but has not been supported politically.

The example from the article is Mitt Romney, whose quote at the beginning is what kicks of the discussion. Mitt, along with the Republican establishment, have consistently said that they are for equal opportunity, that everyone should have the chance to succeed from the beginning. However, their political record has proven them false. They consistently vote to slash funding that helps low-income families, slash funding to education and health services, slash funding for voucher programs, and sweeten the deal for the financially well-off. In addition, they continually rail against policies, such as the Health Care Reform Law, that help to level the playing field for everyone.

As Krugman, and many others besides, have pointed out before now, we are the only developed country that does not have a universal health care system. It is our health care, combined with fewer services for needy families, less education, less economic support, and greater disparity of wealth, that have created a huge disadvantage for the disadvantaged.

historical evidence has shown, time and again, that a smaller wealth gap, a vibrant middle class, and equal opportunities are what drive major economic growth. When we allow the rich to have all the benefits and the poor to have nothing, we end up with the system we're approaching now, where moving up in the world is a pipe dream, and where those who start at the bottom have no choice but to stay there. It is the how America was in the 1900's, and is what we have evolved away from for the better part of a century. Now, with economic crisis, continual disintegration of social programs, and a campaign to solidify the classes of society, we are once again headed towards a society, not of equals, but of servants and masters.

Monopoly: Not just a board game

In this article by William Cohan, the author describes a brief history of how Wall Street has been run by the same small group of companies for almost a century. "The Cartel," as he calls it, is a group of investment firms that has succeeded in maintaining a stranglehold on the fees and business of Wall Street banking since the early 20th century. They have muscled out smaller competitors and, for all intents and purposes, have monoplized the markets.

Because there is a group of companies and not just one or two, the cartel has avoided legal action as a monopoly, since they can claim to be competitors. But historical evidence has shown that this group, so integrated with each other that they are practically a single entity, operates more like a single organization than a group of competing lenders.

The question then becomes: what do we do about it? There has been some recent success in stopping further consolidation, as pointed out in the article. But what about breaking up these groups that have such a clear hold on our economy?

Legal action would be the most likely course, but we all know that such action is almost meaningless against such powerful and wealthy enterprises. And unlike organizations on Main Street, one cannot boycott the market. It simply exists, a system of trading that produces huge amounts of wealth for people without producing a single good or service that can be protested. Without legal or economic means, there is little that can be done, except legislatively.

The only possible solution, it seems, would be to take down this cartel with government regulations. I don't know enough about these things to know how to fashion such legislation, but I know that the response would be quick, decisive, and entirely negative. After all, it would be going after a group of obscenely profitable, highly influential institutions that have operated for nearly 100 years in their capacity. There is going to be a lot of resistance. How do you go about dismantling a monopoly when that monopoly has influence over courts, and very likely over government officials?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Stagnant Growth

The American Dream has always been the promise that, if you work hard enough, you will succeed. Traditionally, this idea mostly pertained to economic success (generating wealth). It used to be that those in the working class aspired to be in the middle, those in the middle aspired to be at the top, and those at the top aspired to remain where they were. All across the board, every person in American society understood that they had to work, and work hard, to improve their lives.

It's been said many times that the welfare state, things like medicaid and unemployment benefits hinder this idea. There are those who believe that when the government hands out checks, those who receive them lose their desire to work hard and do better.

Let me say, before I rail against this, that it is partially true. There are some social leeches. There always has been. Even in the golden ages of American prosperity, there have been those who simply took and did not contribute. Today, there are many who don't work, who don't contribute, and who are granted subsidy by the government.

But before you demonize the entire group, I would like to point out that those who don't want to work make up a small minority of those who don't have jobs right now. Most people want to work, especially since the money they get from the government is rather paltry compared to living expenses. Most people understand the value of hard work, and continue to believe that they can have it all if they push themselves.

But the American Dream, like so many other things, is no longer held by America. The ability for Americans to move up the economic and social ladder is disappearing. People are finding that, no matter how hard they work, they can't get ahead. In fact, Canada and many European nations have greater upward mobility than we do.

Why is that? What has changed in America? Different people will tell you different things, but there are a few key problems I see that have contributed. First of all, America is one of the only developed country's without a public health option. I know this is political sin for saying it, but a public option is a staple in many other countries, one that benefits everyone (including businesses). People have access to affordable, comprehensive care, with an emphasis on prevention, which reduces the costs over time. We in America continue to allow private, for-profit companies to dictate our medical needs to us (it's ironic that people railed against the public option because they feared having a complete stranger telling them what they could and could not do for themselves).

Second, the political atmosphere in our government has been one of regressive, pro-business philosophies for a long time. Before Obama, there was Bush Jr, Clinton, Bush Sr, and Reagan, all of whom had pro-business ideas. Private industry has been allowed to disregard law, taxation, regulation, public health, and public safety in the name of profit. They have bankrupted the economy time and again with their business practices. They have fought the rights of American workers. They have continually pushed for greater autonomy, to the point where we now have representatives who believe in absolutely no government oversight and no regulation in the name of "free market Capitalism." This push to maximize profit has led companies to ship jobs overseas, cut the pay of employees, and the result is the massive gap between the wealthy and the poor.

Third, our country has forgotten that the government is not just a group of individuals who make laws and collect taxes. Our government is supposed to be a support system for our country. We have politicians now who say that there should be no help from the government, that the poor must subsist on their own, and that they have only themselves to blame for their situation. But these people don't seem to understand what they are saying. The majority of the poor don't want to be poor. They work hard, but the policies our government has adopted makes their lives more difficult. Our country has become obsessed with spending, and has whittled away the programs and funding that millions of people benefit from. They seek to reduce health care costs, but only for the government and instead place that burden on the people. They cut education, and bemoan our failing schools. They strip funding from Social Security and Medicaid, and then say the system is broken. The more they cut, the more they lay the burden on American People, who have no choice but to take up that slack, and deny themselves comfort so that they can survive.

So many problems. There are so many things wrong in this country and yet, underneath it all, there is a vibrant soul, stronger and greater than any other on earth. America is still the great land of freedom and Democracy. We are the stronghold of justice, the home of honor, and the center of greatness. We have lost our way, stumbled into a self-destructive pattern, one in which people fight for themselves instead of working together. We ignore common sense, we reject the evidence that says we are misguided, and we allow ourselves to continue in this way as if it were the only path to true, patriotic American values.

When the pillars of the American Dream lay in ruin, we still must rebuild them. We can start now, but only if we as a people, together, acknowledge our faults and resolve to come together, regardless of politics and regardless of power, to make changes to our society. It is never too late, but we are slowly becoming ignorant of the slope we have been sliding down. It is time for us to plant our feet, draw our line in the sand, and say "we will not go one more step. We will not go one more day. We will not go through life blind, but will fix what has been broken and will make ourselves great again." When that happens, we will be America once more.

Starving the Beast(s)

A catchphrase that has been reheated time and again is the "starving the beast" analogy. It's supposed to indicate cutting taxes to starve out the government and force spending cuts, thereby reducing the size of "the beast". The strategy has led to some major funding issues, from big deficits to severe spending cuts to certain programs. But government isn't the only beast in town, and I believe it's time we starting "starving" some of the others.

To put this notion in context, here's an article about another of Obama's supposed failings: the fact that the minimum wage has not gone up since the Bush administration. Part of the problem is that there's been no focus on the minimum wage. A raise hasn't been proposed at the federal level. For all intents and purposes, minimum wasge has been forgotten. But suppose it hadn't. Do you think it would pass Congress, when something like a wage increase would be labeled a "job-killer".

Taking politics out of it though, a higher minimum wage could be a strong boost to the economy. The best way to promote growth is to increase the buying power of consumers, and a higher minimum wage would do that. It may cost more for companies up front, but they'll make it up in sales. Also, as the article points out, higher wages could mean more investment, more people going for higher education, more saving, and more home purchasing. There's a lot of good that can come from this if we just go for it.

While Obama can be blamed for not taking the lead on this initiative, it would be nice if someone else in Congress had tried. But no one did, as far as I know. And who would? With this "do-nothing" attitude and the pro-business rhetoric that has gripped our government, I'd say the chances are good that it wouldn't have passed.

A higher minimum wage could help us starve this recession that we are still recovering from. It could starve the foreclosure epidemic, the housing crisis, the financial uncertainty, and the market volatility. It could starve the obscene profits of businesses who are hiring for less, and laying people off for profit. There are a lot of beasts out there. The government is hardly the worst of them. Something as simple as giving American workers more money for their work could make a huge difference.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The CFPB

With the Senate on sabbatical for the foreseeable future, there's not much that is getting done in Washington. But luckily, there are a few tricks written into the constitution for just such a time. And Obama has used one of them to appoint Richard Cordray as the head of the CFPB.

There are a few things of note here. First, Cordray had been interviewed by the Senate, and they all seemed to like him. But Senate Republicans have been blocking any person from directing the CFPB until they get the changes made to the agency that they want. They have demanded that the agency, which oversees the private sector to reduce fraudulent practices, be overseen by members of the private sector who will have jurisdiction over it. Furthermore, they demand to have direct control over the CFPB's funding. The prevailing wisdom would point out that these measures would essentially nullify the effect of the agency from the beginning, making it a useless and ineffective government bureau. So, the only thing that the Republicans have to complain about, really, is that the agency designed to protect the American People will be able to do its job, which is kind of a silly thing to complain about....

Secondly, as you'll see in the article, law experts have pointed out that Obama's use of this executive maneuver is not only commonplace for Presidents, but that Obama has only used this ability a fraction of the number of times that other recent Presidents, such as Bush and Clinton used it. What's ironic about that is that the GOP leaders of the House and Senate have been up in arms over this appointment, calling it "an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab by President Obama that defies centuries of practice and the legal advice of his own Justice Department," according to John Boehner, who also said, "This action goes beyond the President's authority, and I expect the courts will find the appointment to be illegitimate." It's an interesting presumption, but it is also incorrect, as I'm sure Boehner knows. After all, Bush Jr. pulled the same stunt 170 times in eight years (to date, Obama has used it 28; Clinton went 140 in two terms). This power, called a Recess Apppointment, is one of the few powers outlined explicitly in the Constitution, which should satisfy any of those pesky constitutionalists out there. And Boehner should know this.


The Republicans had a plan when they left Congress for their long break. Instead of allowing Obama the satisfaction of a fully recessed Senate that would allow the POTUS to appoint people at his leisure, the GOPers decided for a sneaky tactic called pro-forma sessions. These sessions involve a couple of senators gaveling in and gaveling out in the span of a few seconds, with no business being conducted. For all intents and purposes, the Senate is in recess, but because of these brief "sessions", the GOP was hoping to stop Obama from appointing anyone without Senate approval.

Clearly, this is going to be an interesting debate. It should be clear to most that the appointment is legal, constitutional, and binding. For all intents and purposes, Cordray is the director of the CFPB. I'm sure there will be a legal battle, and I'm sure there will be those who say it's not fair, that it's a break of tradition, and other things like that. But the facts remain, and the powers of the presidency remain, and the law that governs us all remains.

It's (not quite) Romney!

The Iowa caucuses are behind us, and Mitt Romney came out on top by 8 votes, the smallest margin in history. While many people are praising him as the victor, it's important to point out that the person he lost to by so few votes was Rick Santorum, a candidate who hadn't even appeared in most polls. In fact, that meteoric rise and unexpected come-from-behind second place finish is more indicative of a win for Santorum than one for Romney.

Still, Romney won. But keep in mind that this decision has no bearing on the outcome of the elections. No votes were cast that will eventually lead to a nomination. This is more like a trial run. In fact, based on historical evidence, this actually reduces Mitt's chances at the nomination. So, I think the real winner last night was Santorum.

Ron Paul stayed in his usual third-place slot throughout the night, and is still in it. Rick Perry is on his way home to reflect on his campaign, and Michelle Bachmann is defiant in her continuation of a campaign, despite coming in last. Gingrich, who came in fourth, is still plugging along as well, though I think he knows he's done as a top-tier candidate.

I'm glad the Iowa caucus is over, but I'm sad to say that it's just the beginning. The news cycle is going to be full of political antics for the next few months, and it's going to be a severe pain in the ass before this week is even over. So, buckle up and prepare for the long, drawn-out car crash that is the media's coverage of a presidential race.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

What's the big deal about debt?

It's the discussion we hear Washington having all the time. The discussion has almost been entirely about reducing the deficit and debt. But as Paul Krugman points out in another great piece, the debt is not as big a problem as our politicians and media make it out to be.

Like most things, the idea of the debt has been blown out of proportion by people who don't really understand, and only have a vague notion of what it really means. Furthermore, the analogies that are made about the debt being like private family debt is incorrect, according to Krugman, because the government mostly owes debt to itself. A better example, then, would be a child who earns a weekly allowance, but spends more than that on a present for a friend for their birthday. Their parents give them the money to buy the gift because they know the child needs to have it, and they just detract that amount from the next week's allowance. Now, imagine that this child has a friend who has a birthday every week. The parent's keep giving the child an advance, and the child will never be able to make it up, but their allowance covers about 80% of the cost, so the parents keep loaning since they're only losing a portion of money on the deal. And, let's face it, they kind of have to. That analogy is, I think, more approrpriate to how our debt operates.

In that analogy, the accumulated debt does wear on the parents over time, but they never stop and demand that the child pay them back. The child may take on extra jobs to boost increase their allowance (akin to tax hikes for increased revenue), but the chances that they'll be able to make enough to cover their overhead is minimal. So, they have to keep borrowing.

As Krugman points out, this situation doesn't really change all that much in our society. Or, at least it shouldn't. As he says, dealing with the debt and deficit does not help create jobs in any sense. In fact, with an emphasis on paying off debt that uses things like austerity measures to reduce spending, the result can be job losses as businesses and individuals have to take on more of the financial burden for things the government covered to begin with.

Despite the rhetoric in Washington, focusing on the debt is not focusing on jobs. What I've noticed is that politicians (GOPers mostly) will talk on and on and on about the debt and the deficit and cutting spending. Then, when the Dems start talking about it, they suddenly switch gears and attack the dems for not focusing on jobs. The GOP meanwhile hasn't done anything to fix either and has instead decided that doing nothing is a better move politically even if not economically.

Irony in all forms



Welcome back for 2012! I hope everyone had a safe, happy holiday!

As today is the day for the Iowa Caucus, the unofficial official first day of real honest-to-goodness primary voting, I thought it would be nice to talk about the one candidate that won't be on the ballot: Obama.

Now, I'm what you might call an Obama "supporter". I think he's done a pretty good job, I think he has the right idea on most things, and I think he's light-years ahead of the GOP candidates. That being said, I do have issues with some of his policies, as previous posts of mine have shown.

The comic above is a great rendition of a common problem on both sides of the aisle. Progressives who support Obama tend to gloss over his less-than-popular policies because they don't want the American People to vote in someone they feel is worse. They are willing to take the indefinite detention, the continuation of Guantanamo Bay, and Internet censorship if it means that Obama is still in the White House.

Of course, conservatives are guilty of this too. They tend to gloss over Ron Paul's questionable newsletters, Gingrich's affairs, Santorum's extreme prejudice, and the outrageous claims and promises of all the candidates in order to cast them in the best possible light while they have the favor of the media. But as the comic above points out, this double standard is not really all that good.

For one thing, if we ignore the insane policies of any representative, we tend to marginalize or dismiss them, which means we don't address them and demand change. In the case of Obama, there are plenty of people, even among his strongest supporters, who are denouncing his decisions over indefinite detention of censorship. While the conservatives are trying to rip him apart with these policies, the Left is trying to protect him as a President while voicing discontent with some of his decisions.

The same thing happens on the Right, but to some extent not as much. The GOP base will usually ignore the more extreme views of a candidate or representative until those views get them in trouble in the media. Then, as a group, they up and leave them in support of someone else. They allow their delusions to lead them until they can no longer justify them, and then they move off and create delusions about somebody else.

It's all part of this idea that we need to have the perfect candidate, the perfect person, the man or woman who has never said the wrong thing in their life. We are all looking for our personal "Ronald Reagan" as it were, and we're all trying to take what we have already and make it fit that mold. Collectively, we look for consistency, we look for intelligence, we look for poise and electability. Such a person does not exist, but we try to fashion them anyway.

We shouldn't ignore the bad policies of any politician, no matter how much we support or believe in their message. We have to demand honesty from our representatives. After all, the President is meant to serve at our discretion. They are meant to listen to us before they listen to their contributors, and we must hold them accountable for their actions.