Category Archives: Politics: US

An Appropriate Petition

Rename the 10+ Military Bases Named After Confederate Generals

The White House’s online petition site was a good idea in principle, but it hasn’t amounted to much since the replies to petitions the Administration doesn’t intend to accept have so often turned out to be the usual mealy-mouthed mush you get from a political press office. They have not, in key cases, met the more demanding tests one would apply under the Administrative Procedures Act if an agency were required to respond to public comments. Even so, the petition site is still good for symbolic issues, and what could be more symbolic than the names of military bases?

Rename the 10+ Military Bases Named After Confederate Generals

Today we have over 10 US military bases named for generals of the Confederate States of America.

For example, Fort Polk is named after a plantation master of several hundred slaves. Fort Pickett’s namesake was accused of war crimes in executing 22 Union prisoners.

Forts Benning, Bragg, Polk, A.P. Hill, Rucker, Beauregard, Lee, Hood all carry similar tales.

When these bases were built, during the World Wars, it may have made sense to name them after local heroes. Now, with over 20% of our forces African-American why do we insult them by asking them to serve at a base named after defenders of slavery WHO KILLED AMERICAN TROOPS?

Would we have a Goering Air Base or Camp Cornwallis?

There are so many honorable people who upheld our American ideals, can’t we find 10 to honor?

Created: Jul 06, 2013

The petition needs 100,000 signatures in order to force the White House to reply with an explanation as to why it won’t do it. Sign here. I was #34, so there’s a long way to go.

More background at Political Animal, Sign the Petition–Retire General Hood!.

Posted in Politics: US | 14 Comments

The Red Lionfish of Politics

How can this be?

Most people are now familiar with President’s Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security by reducing the annual cost of living adjustment. While the final formula is somewhat convoluted, the net effect is to reduce benefits by an average of roughly 3.0 percent.

Since Social Security benefits account for more than 70 percent of the income of a typical retiree, this cut is more than a 2.0 percent reduction in income. By comparison, a wealthy couple earning $500,000 a year would see a hit to their after-tax income of just 0.6 percent from the tax increase that President Obama put in place last year.

While President Obama is willing to make seniors pay a price for the economic crisis, his administration his unwilling to impose any burdens on Wall Street. Specifically, it has consistently opposed a Wall Street speculation tax: effectively a sales tax on trades of stock and derivatives. The Obama administration has even used its power to try to block efforts by European countries to impose their own taxes on financial speculation.

If the idea of taxing stock trades sounds strange, it shouldn’t. The United States used to impose a tax of 0.04 percent until Wall Street lobbied to eliminate it in the mid-1960s. Many countries, including the United Kingdom, Switzerland, China, and India already impose taxes on stock trades.

Oh, wait, it’s simple:

Wall Street bankers have a lot more political power than old and disabled people who depend on Social Security. That is why President Obama is working to protect the former and cut benefits for the latter.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, let me repeat two things I’ve said often before:

1. We need a Tobin Tax too.

2. Consider this administration the flowering of the Nelson Rockefeller wing of the GOP. Obama governs like the moderate-liberal Republicans of my youth — a species now all but extinct in its original habitat, but thriving like red lionfish in their new home.

Posted in Econ: Social Security, Politics: US | 4 Comments

No Saturday Mail Deliveries?

Apparently this is not a Washington Monument ploy: the USPS plans to discontinue Saturday delivery.

The Post Office’s money troubles stem from totally unreasonable congressional requirements, not imposed on any private business, that they fund not just current retiree’s pensions or 401(k) contributions for current employees (the private sector standard), nor just current employees’ future pensions, nor just projected future pensions for the next 20-25 years (the standard for most federal agencies), but all future pensions for all future projected retirees in the next 75 years. The idea, I have to presume, is to put the Post Office out of business and privatize its functions — a really bad idea when you consider that we rely on Post Offices to issue passports and to do other critical jobs like distribute medicine in the event of an epidemic.

I predict more credit cards will make bills due on weekends, forcing people to pre-pay, adding to their float.

Speaking selfishly, this makes me happier that I decided finally to stop renewing the Economist on the grounds that its politics were too predictable and its analysis increasingly threadbare. It came Saturday (on good weeks), which made it seem less dated and I had more time to look at it. Getting it on Monday at best will make it even less attractive.

Posted in Politics: US | 6 Comments

Ed Koch 1924-2013

Former NYC Mayor Ed Koch — who just a few days ago was still going, if a bit weakly — has died. The NYT has a very readable obituary, which notes,

Besides his sister, a former dean at New York University whom he saw regularly in later years, Mr. Koch is survived by New York itself, as an old friend put it a few years ago.

Koch’s generally successful tenure was buoyed by his outsized and quotable personality but stained by what could most charitably be called insensitivity to New York’s racial problems; to a distant observer that insensitivity sometimes looked more calculated. It’s odd to read again about the many scandals involving Koch’s associates that brought him down; that isn’t what sticks in memory nearly as much as Koch dooming his run for Governor by knocking upstate as too rural and Albany as devoid of a decent Chinese restaurant.

Posted in Politics: US | 1 Comment

The Optimist

Cool story in the WaPost today about a man who rode an elevator with Candidate Obama in 2008 and gave him something: Earl Smith is the man behind a military patch that President Obama prizes.

Posted in Politics: US, Politics: US: 2008 Elections | Leave a comment

Shopper Boehner’s Mistake

House Speaker John Boehner acts like he’s a customer at the Obama Emporium of Budget Plans. Shopper Boehner doesn’t like the wares he offered. “Bring me a better one,” he commands. Strangely, this is more or less how negotiations between the Obama administration and the GOP used to work. Now, however, the Obama people have reverted to claiming they want actual negotiations, the sort that requires both sides to have an actual opening bid. “Bring me a better one” will not do. Shopper Boehner, and the House GOP in general are finding this shift hard to cope with.

The conventional wisdom is that House Speaker John Boehner is weak. He can’t deliver his caucus, and he doesn’t really understand the budget; he appears to believe, for example, that the Ryan Budget adds up. Because he doesn’t command the loyalty of his caucus, and because he has an ambitious lieutenant just aching to put the shiv between his ribs, Speaker Boehner can’t discipline his troops either. For these reasons, I recently called Boehner the Yasser Arafat of the Republican Party. It wasn’t meant as a compliment.

President Obama has made Speaker Boehner and the GOP an offer on the budget, one much like Obama’s previous budget plan, and so far Obama is actually sticking to it rather than ‘negotiating with himself’ as Obama has done for the last four years. Instead of offering concession after concession for the GOP to pocket and demand more, Obama has asked Boehner’s caucus to please spell out their own demands. This, of course, the GOP is unable to do for a number of reasons: politically, it would require them to own the pain caused by the radical cuts they claim to want; logistically it would require them to assemble a budget proposal that adds up (which would be a first in recent memory); logically, it requires either consistency with the budget they campaigned on — thus either causing extreme pain or not adding up — or it requires violating their recent campaign pledges. (Best line on that: “I’m old enough to remember when Republicans insisted that anyone who said they wanted to cut Medicare was a demagogue, because I’m more than three weeks old.“) Lurking in the background is the pledge that matters more than anything said to the voters on the campaign trail, the one to Grover Norquist.

Today’s paper quotes Speaker Boehner as saying this:

“We’ve put a serious offer on the table by putting revenues up there to try to get this question resolved,” Mr. Boehner said on “Fox News Sunday.” “But the White House has responded with virtually nothing. They have actually asked for more revenue than they’ve been asking for the whole entire time.”

In fact however there is no Republican “offer” on the table at all — nothing with numbers attached that could be turned in to legislation. Rather, Shopper Boehner’s idea of an “offer” is to say that were Obama to come up with something that actually closed a tax loophole, Boehner might accept it.

The Administration spent the weekend trying to explain this GOP tactic to pundits and to the people, but I’m not sure how good a job they did of it.

It may take a while for Shopper Boehner to grasp that the budget negotiation task requires Speaker Boehner. Right now I imagine Shopper Boehner thinks he is at the tailors. Someone brings out a suit. Shopper Boehner shakes his head, doesn’t even try it on, says he wants something nicer but he won’t pay much more for it. If you’re a customer and times are tough, maybe you can talk like that. If you are are a national leader trying to hammer out a budget while the economy is still on life support, not so much. You have to make a counter-proposal, and it actually has to have some substance. Even so, given the past four years, it is understandable why Shopper Boehner might think that if he continues being imperious then that nice tailor fellow will be right back out with fabrics drawn from the private stash.

Underlining the kabuki nature of the whole budget ‘negotiation’ are three other aspects: (1) The GOP has no intention of resolving the debt ceiling on a long-term basis: that’s it’s best hostage and the more it can extort for it more often, the better; (2) both sides have boxed taken the Pentagon’s budget off the table even though that is where most cuts should be coming from; (3) political momentum suggests strongly that at least a partial deal will be easier after January 1. Come the new year, the Bush tax cuts expire on their own. At that point, if the GOP wants to pass Obama’s versions of ‘tax cuts for the 98%’ it will no longer, as a formalist matter, involve ‘raising’ taxes for the top 2% since those will have gone up by themselves. While this might not please the GOP’s paymasters, it will at least allow the Republicans to claim with a straight face that their Norquist purity remains.

PS. Can someone explain to me how it can be that the Obama tax bill originated in the Senate? Art. I, sec. 7 of the US Constitution says,

All bills for raising Revenue shall originate in the House of Representatives; but the Senate may propose or concur with Amendments as on other Bills.

Doesn’t that make the Senate tax bill invalid? Or is it that tax cuts are immune from the rule since they lower, not raise, revenue? Or is the plan to re-pass the no doubt amended version in the Senate after the House votes?

Posted in Econ & Money, Politics: US | 4 Comments

Words So Strange I Almost Expect My Monitor to Melt

the voting records show that Thad Cochran is to the left of all but three Republicans in the Senate.

— Stuart Benjamin, Moderate Senate Republicans Fall Off Their Own Cliff.

And he has impressive charts showing just how scarce anything looking like a moderate Republican will be in the next Senate.

Posted in Politics: US | 1 Comment