Tag Archives: President Obama

Slammed

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It’s been one month since the midterm elections, and a lot of people are still smarting from the results. But several folks saw this coming. As expected, the Republican Party has retained control of the House of Representatives and taken the Senate. But, few anticipated the GOP would garner such high numbers. Moreover, Republicans have attained most of the state governorships. Here in Texas, the GOP has won every major state-level office for the fifth consecutive election cycle. A Democrat hasn’t won a state-wide office since 1994, when Garry Mauro won reelection as State Treasurer. By the time the current crop of officeholders finish their respective terms, Democrats will have been shut out of state-level offices for two decades.

Texas Democrats had hoped this year would be theirs; that they would recapture at least one office, preferably the governorship, but at least maybe attorney general or state treasurer. But they didn’t. They lost – in the worst way. As usual, most voting-eligible Texans failed to turn up at the voting booths this year. In fact, Texas had the lowest rate of voter turnout than any state in the union – roughly 4.75 million people, or 28.5% of the vote-eligible population. In the Dallas – Fort Worth metropolitan area, some local officials blamed the damp, cold weather for the dismal response. Really? I recall an election in India several years ago where some people were being carried in on their deathbeds – literally! – to cast a ballot. Overall this year’s midterm produced the worst voter turnout since 1942. That particular year was understandable: the U.S. had just entered World War II, when many young men had already joined the fight overseas. Men were much more likely to vote than women back then, plus there were a slew of voter restriction laws – especially in the Southeast – to keep poor and non-White voters from casting ballots. But that was then; things have changed considerably in 70 years. I don’t just find the low voter response appalling. I find it disgusting. What happened?

After the 2007 – 2008 financial downturn – a period in which the U.S. came as close to a completed and total economic collapse – people felt their elected officials simply weren’t responding to their needs. President Obama and the Democrats inexplicably focused their energy on passing a healthcare bill and reforming the immigration system. The latter was labeled an attempt to appeal to Hispanics; once again, assuming Hispanics only care about immigration in the same way women only care about abortion and gays and lesbians only care about same-sex marriage. Sweeping assumptions like that are an insult and always dangerous. It’s bad enough, though, the Republican Party was determined from the moment Obama won the 2008 presidential elections to obstruct his agenda. Every conservative lout from Dick Cheney to Mitch McConnell stated publicly and emphatically they wanted to make Obama a “one-term president.” Fortunately, they failed. But they and the Democrats have failed miserably over just about everything, mainly the economy.

My gripe with Obama is his overt willingness to compromise. His first major capitulation to the Republicans came in December 2010, as the Bush-era tax cuts were due to expire. The GOP literally threatened to withhold votes on extending benefits for the long-term unemployed, if tax cuts for the wealthiest citizens and largest corporations weren’t kept in place. Obama bowed to them; declaring openly that he didn’t want “the hostages” to be harmed. In December 2010, the Democrats still held majorities in both houses of Congress, and the President could have very well issued an executive order extending the benefits in question. But he backed down. And that’s when I began to lose respect for him – in the same way I’d long lost respect for most elected officials.

In 1934, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt realized just how bad the Great Depression really was, he made the bold – and shocking – decision to raise taxes on the wealthiest citizens and largest corporations (the same ones who benefited from hefty Republican-spawned tax breaks the previous decade) to stimulate the economy. He convinced these people that such hikes would benefit them, too, in that more Americans would be able to enter the workforce and pay their own taxes, plus have money left over to buy goods produced by a variety of industries. It made sense. The policy worked to some extent, but the 1929 collapse had been so bad, the positive effects weren’t immediate. Thus, economists and the politicians who think they know so much have been debating the logic of this move ever since.

The Democrats failed on another front regarding the economy. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder never indicted anyone in connection with the recent financial calamity. Anyone with at least half a brain knows it didn’t happen by chance. It wasn’t the inevitable result of market ups and downs. Major banking entities such as Citigroup and Fannie Mae were key players in the debacle. Both helped to create the massive housing bubble at the turn of the century, replete with outrageous features such as zero-down purchases and mortgage-backed securities. As the crisis worsened towards the end of 2008, Citigroup managed to convince the federal government to give it a life-saving multi-billion-dollar loan. But it also began laying off people at its various offices across the globe. Fannie Mae, along with Freddie Mac, also received a multi-billion-dollar, taxpayer-funded bailout; this one in 2009. Yet that investment didn’t become profitable for taxpayers until this year. The average American worker hasn’t seen a lot of positive returns on their “investments” to save the “too-big-to-fail” banks. Those lounging in the economic ivory tower certainly have. For example, Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, received a $16.2 million compensation package for 2011, despite a serious drop in corporate profits. The following year Blankfein urged Americans to consider a later retirement age.

“You can look at history of these things,” he told CBS News, “and Social Security wasn’t devised to be a system that supported you for a 30-year retirement after a 25-year career. … So there will be things that, you know, the retirement age has to be changed, maybe some of the benefits have to be affected, maybe some of the inflation adjustments have to be revised. But in general, entitlements have to be slowed down and contained.”

How thoughtful. In February of 2009, two months after I earned my college degree, the engineering company where I worked held their annuals employee reviews. Due to budget crunches, my then-manager told me, they couldn’t afford significant salary increases. So, while my living expenses continued to rise, my salary essentially remained flat. I was laid off the following year.

People like Blankfein are part of the current problem of wealth inequality in America. That the Obama Administration neglected to prosecute the scoundrels responsible for all those business closings and job losses – again, this didn’t happen by accident – is reprehensible. If I rob a convenience store of a hundred bucks and get caught, I’d be sure to serve some serious prison time. Hedge-fund managers who manipulated the stock market seem immune to the most egregious of financial indiscretions.

Still, the economy has rebounded since Obama first took office. The unemployment rate, which reached a high of 9.9% in April 2010, now stands at 5.8%. GDP growth stood at negative 5.4% in the first quarter of 2009 and is now at 3.9%. The national deficit was $1.4 trillion in 2009 and now is $564 billion. That all brings up yet another complaint. Why didn’t the Democrats highlight those facts? In his 2012 reelection bid, Obama proclaimed, “Bin Laden is dead, and GM is alive.”

It was simple, yet effective. For many of us, though, the economy really hasn’t recovered. Wages remain stagnant, and jobs are tenuous. We’ve become a contract society.

Moreover, I don’t really blame many people for not voting. I understand the frustration with the hollow words and obstinacy of some candidates. Wendy Davis, for example, began her campaign for Texas governor by attacking her opponent, Greg Abbott, instead of highlighting her own accomplishments. I think it was about 6 months into the campaign before she ran a more positive ad; one telling her life story. Voters really get put off by such animosity from the start. Criticizing the opposition is a dubious tactic. It’s almost as if the individual is hiding something nefarious about their own past. That’s essentially how George W. Bush won his two presidential terms: he had no redeeming qualities, so his campaign team attacked the other guys. And some voters fell for it.

I don’t know what the immediate future holds for this country. With Republicans now in control of the U.S. Congress, I foresee further adolescent bickering between people who are otherwise educated business professionals. I don’t envision economic improvements or tax relief for us regular folks. It’s depressing. That Mars One venture is looking more and more attractive.

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Okay, Let’s Attack Syria, But…

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President Obama has placed himself into a quandary with Syria.  As the world observes what can only be deemed a human atrocity with a chemical assault upon Syrian civilians, the United States collectively contemplates intervention.  Obama won the presidency in 2008 primarily based on his opposition to the Iraq War – the illegitimate enterprise launch by the draft-dodging George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.  We now know that American oil interests used the horror of 09/11 to justify the invasion of Iraq.  Those same entities are surely behind Obama’s sudden desire to attack Syria.

It’s amazing how the U.S. government selects its battles.  President Bill Clinton says he didn’t interfere in the 1994 Rwandan massacre because he simply had no idea what had happened; a dubious claim at best.  Ronald Reagan sent covert military operatives into Central America allegedly to stamp out any communist insurgencies.  In reality, U.S. conglomerates like United Fruit wanted to maintain their lock on local commodities.

Chemical warfare is nothing new.  Technically, people have been using them for millennia; starting with poisoned arrows.  They gained prominence, however, at the start of the 20th century with a chlorine gas attack in Belgium in 1915.  Germany made good use of them during World War I.  Consequently, in 1925, an assemblage of nations banned chemical weapons with the Geneva Protocol.  But, things always look great on paper.

No one jumped when Saddam Hussein used mustard gas and sarin against Kurdish civilians in 1988; perhaps because the U.S. might have been involved.  Hussein may have used chemical weapons against the U.S. military during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.  A decade ago the U.S. accused Hussein of stockpiling uranium, which of course, prompted the invasion.  Notice how these things are cyclical?

Now Obama wants to don the mantle of international hero by ousting Bashar al-Assad.  So far, he hasn’t convinced too many in the U.S. Congress, nor has he been able to persuade our biggest ally, Great Britain.  He plans to take his case to the American public in a televised address tomorrow night.  Good luck.

But, if the U.S. does plan to attack Syria, here are two conditions I’d like to see take place first:

  • Raise taxes on the wealthiest citizens and largest corporations to fund the war.  Our engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan occurred without the benefit of significant tax revenue, which ultimately led to the current economic crisis.  Besides, all those rich folks and oil conglomerates are the one who benefited the most from the conflicts.
  • Institute the military draft for every able-bodied person ages 18 – 25.  But, this time include women and rich men.  Yes, if women want to be treated as equals to men in business and politics, that means they have to serve alongside men on the battlefield.  In the past, sons of affluent families have been able to bypass military service.  (Mitt Romney comes to mind.)  But, if those boys can expend energy racing their million-dollar speed boats or partying all night in Cancún, then they can damn well haul rucksacks across the Syrian desert.  There also should be no exceptions for conscientious objectors, such as Mormons, Amish, or Jews.

I won’t hold my breath on passage of either.  I know it’s a long shot to expect multi-millionaires to share the tax burden (not their hard-dollar wealth), or for “Millenials” to set down their I-pods and actually do something constructive.  But, what’s life worth if you can’t dream?  Ultimately, my dream is for the Syrian people to rise up and depose al-Assad all on their own.  Regardless, war is just too ugly for only a handful of people to endure.

Image courtesy Warrior of Ideas.

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Best Quote of the Week

“And, I know there are a lot of moms out there who often go without the care they need, or the checkups they know they should get because they’re worrying about that co-pay that has to go to gas or to groceries or to the new soccer uniform instead. …So, we decided that needed to change.  In a country as wealthy as this one, there was no reason why a family’s security should be determined by the chance of an illness or an accident.  We decided to do something about it.”

– President Obama, about the Affordable Health Care Act, on Friday, May 10.

Obama went on later to say that pregnancy will not be considered a “pre-existing condition” under the Act, which was undoubtedly the best part of his speech.

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Funniest Quote of the Week

“I’m not the strapping young Muslim Socialist that I used to be.”

– President Obama, poking fun at right-wing conspiracy theories in his speech at this year’s annual White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.

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TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year”: President Obama

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This morning TIME Magazine announced that President Obama is their “Person of the Year” for 2012.  He last received that honor in 2008.  The other contenders were: Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teenager who was shot in the head for advocating for girls’ education; Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi; and Bill and Hillary Clinton.  Obama is only the second African-American after Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., to be selected.  I eagerly await the usual cacophony of rancor from the Tea Party loons over TIME’s choice.

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Meanwhile, Out in the Cold…

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November 1, 2012 · 7:49 PM

More Stupidity in Action

“Obama’s making these phone calls, looking for somebody to play the role of a Greek column today, and he found Gov. Christie to do it.  Christie’s the only Republican not just praising Obama . . . Let’s just put it this way: Is it wrong for one man to love another man?  But that man-love out there is isolated in the state of New Jersey.”

– Rush Limbaugh on his radio show, condemning Chris Christie for working with President Obama on the Hurricane Sandy aftermath.

This is the downside of free speech: anyone with a microphone, computer or bullhorn can say just about anything they want – no matter how blatantly asinine.

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