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I’ll admit it. I like firing people too, especially if they suck at what they do. So Mitt Romney, your comments don’t bother me.

Indeed, I agree that Romney’s comments–about enjoying the act of firing people–were taken out of context. But it’s really quite a stroke of luck for the GOP front-runner that few people are trying to square those comments with the actual context.

Yes, it is pink.

As everyone knows by now, Romney was talking about health insurance when he made his now-famous remarks.

The problem with health insurers is not that their customers can’t fire them (i.e., find better coverage at better prices). It’s that the insurers can simply refuse to do business with you in the first place, for example, if you are sick and urgently need an insurance company’s services. Or if you have been sick in the past and might need the company’s services again.

As a result, I doubt that a sick person who has a problem with an insurance company can realistically fire that company and hire a new one in its place.

Romney probably knows this. As governor of Massachusetts, he signed health care legislation designed to spare people from this problem. As president, Barack Obama did the same. Insurers agreed to cover all comers in return for the requirement that all people buy coverage–not just buy it when they’re sick.

I guess at some point in this contest we’ll get to that debate. But I’m not going to hold my breath. It might make me sick–and then I’d be the one on the firing line.

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I can’t believe this became news to me only this morning: Obama is a heretic. His alleged sin? Failure to believe in American exceptionalism.

The irony, already pointed out, is that he is no such thing. He just expresses his beliefs differently. Pity.

Dude, where's my country?

What this country needs is someone to point out the absurdity of the belief. Hello! People in every country believe their homeland has some special quality or mission.

For us, it happens to be our political system, which is increasingly indistinct from our economic system. Other countries are proud of their social safety nets, their excellent taste in wine, their clean, roomy prison systems, etc. No one is sitting around thinking, “Why can’t we merge our garden-variety nation with our cooler, more exceptional neighbor to the north/south/east/west?”

It takes courage to see the world as it is, not the way we imagine it to be. But it’s not the kind of courage we expect from a politician, liberal or conservative. But why shouldn’t we?

 

 

A lot, and we might go blind. So with that out of the way, I hope you enjoyed President Obama’s State of the Union speech.

Rock, paper...shredder!!!

What I love best are the critics who blast it as just words. Um, it was a speech. Of course it was just words. Did you expect Obama to pick up a hammer and start building that wall we want erected along the Mexican border? Or did you expect him to whip out some federal grant checks and run them through a shredder? “This is how serious I am about cutting spending!!!!”

His speech is just words. The response is just words. And all those people pointing out that Michelle Bachmann wasn’t looking at the camera? Words. What can we say? We’re in love with them.

 

It’s another new era in Pennsylvania, another attempt to get it right. Welcome, Tom Corbett. It’s your state now. But all this talk of making PA more business-friendly has me a little bit concerned.

Never shake a baby's hand.

Oh, I understand that businesses need to make money and that they don’t like taxes any more than the rest of us. But we’ve been going in this direction a long time, and I’m not sure it has brought us much in the way of general prosperity.

What your promises are likely to mean is that people will have to sacrifice, people who already are suffering, so that people who have a lot can keep more of it. Yes, it sounds like class warfare…didn’t they earn it after all, and shouldn’t they be allowed to keep it (ah, the presumption–that government is the one “allowing” us to enjoy the fruits of our labor).

It’s easy to pump up the rhetoric. But in the end, it’s just sad. I predict that the libertarian right will be disappointed in the end results of the Corbett administration, but barring some greater economic catastrophe, they will remain convinced that the state just wasn’t friendly enough.

So I’m waiting for someone to come up wth a convincing reason for me to care that not one House Republican voted for the economic stimulus bill this week.

Given the circumstances, it was practically a free vote and serves mostly as a Clinton-like refrain circa 1994: We’re still relevant. Take us seriously

The Senate is going to work its magic on the bill. It probably will look very little like the one that passed the House. So House members will have another chance to squawk — and another few weeks of doom-and-gloom economic news to condition them.

Barack Obama is  most likely not quaking in his boots over the power of the House GOP to stifle his agenda. They obviously can’t. It’s big of him to make nice, but I’m sure he or his advisers understand the politics driving House members. It’s the Senate they have to worry about.

They may even have anticipated a party-line “no.” I haven’ t heard anyone in the White House complaining (not that I have an ear anywhere near that hallowed ground).

How can we forget the many token “no”votes cast against the bank bailout? It died, then it came back to life so we could beat it up again over how ineffective it’s been. If you wanted to conjure up fresh proof that government spending doesn’t seem to work, you would have done the same.

There’s this notion going around that tough times will reveal the true character of America. It’s a good bit of marketing and satisfies our desire for myth. But it’s baloney.

When you’re backed up against a wall, you learn one thing: people have a keen sense of survival and a knack for self-preservation. It’s those other times that show us what we’re made of, like those times everyone thought they could get rich buying and selling tech stocks  houses  oil futures hope?

I guess Bush will take the blame from a lot of people. But whatever else he did, he didn’t force anyone to take on a mortgage they couldn’t afford.

But didn’t he and his cronies create the climate that made all those criminal excesses possible? I suppose they might bear some responsibility, but people have to take their share of the blame occassionally.

We get the leaders that serve up what we want to believe, and we very badly wanted to believe in everlasting wealth.

It doesn’t mean we still can’t become Treasury Secretary some day, even if it means a come-down in pay.

It continues to intrigue me — the biblical point Obama raised in his inauguration speech on putting away childish things.

He seems to mean things like partisanship and political gamesmanship and their attendant ills, with self-righteousness and ideological rigor mortis being two of the biggest.

But those things are decidedly not childish. They are the sole province of adults (and adolescents, I might add). Name me a child who sticks to a course of action, no matter how foolish, based on some abstract philosophical notion.

Children may fixate on something and carry on like fools, but it’s generally over a concrete object, say a chocolate chip cookie, a Matchbox car or a pair of footie pajamas. I don’t see them crying over failed adherence to free-market principles or skepticism over Keynesian economics.

I guess it sounds clever to compare peculiarly adult blind spots to childish things. But it doesn’t do much to advance our political discourse when we seek to infantilize people based on what they may feel are important principles.

Or when we seek to explain away what is decidedly an adult problem as some sort of childishness that needs to be abandoned. Good luck with that.

It’s easy to say we’ll miss W. after he’s gone. It’s harder to say why, however, without resorting to cliches. Here’s a feeble effort:

* We’ll miss having an obvious, high-profile target for our political self-righteousness. The comedians will survive  W’s passing. But what about the everyday blowhard writing letters to the editor?

* We’ll miss the air of superiority we felt in believing ourselves smarter than the man in the oval office. No one feels that way about Obama, at least not yet. Quite the opposite. People are placing great faith in his intellectual ability to get the country out of its current jam.

People at least knew where they stood with Bush, either with him or against him. Maybe it’s for the best that we melt the polarizing style of contemporary politics. And maybe we really are prepared to give Obama time.

But patience is a virtue best left untested. While it may be the deepest economic downturn since the Great Depression, our attention spans may be at their shortest since, oh, Moses shattered the ten commandments in anger at an unfaithful people.

The debate over the gas-tax holiday has gone far enough. It’s mostly a showpiece with little real-world effect (what would politics be without that sort of thing anyway?) Still, I’m willing to go along with it if we can come up with a more creative solution: force people to stop driving their SUVs and monster pickup trucks unless they’re hauling three passengers and/or a load of stuff.

Every time I venture out in my little Honda Civic, I’m surrounded by solo drivers in huge machines. It’s time for a little trade-off. I’m happy to spare those drivers some pain at the pump, but only if they’re willing to stop being the biggest, self-inflicting cause of it.

If I were Barack Obama there’s one thing I’d be worried about from last night’s debate in Philadelphia. Yes, he deflected questions about Pastor Wright and “bitter-gate” with dexterity and he was relatively forthright in addressing them. Obama’s been fairly successful at insisting on a new kind of politics that doesn’t tar people with guilt by association. It’s an admirable stand and it’s been effective.

But, to my mind (and I can’t be the only one who noticed), he seemed far less confident, and even appeared to stumble, in addressing questions about Iran.

Now, I was assembling a child’s wagon while I watched the debate, so take this with a grain of salt. But Obama’s response to the Iran question caught my attention. He didn’t seem as forthright or as together in his answer as did Hillary Clinton. Sure, there were holes in her logic (we could barely get France under the security umbrella of NATO. How will we ever convince Iran and countries like it to do anything similar?). But she at least seemed to have a coherent, well-considered position.  No one doubts John McCain will offer the same . I didn’t get the same impression from Obama from last night’s debate.

Why does this even matter? Isn’t this election about the economy, about the war in Iraq, about change, blah blah blab? I guess. But unforeseen foreign-policy crises are often what define a presidency. Hardly anyone was discussing Iraq or terrorism in 2000 but they’ve dominated the last seven years and affected practically everything else we do.

Iran might not present a crisis for the next president, but Obama’s stumble on it tells me he either isn’t thinking seriously about foreign policy or doesn’t have very good advisers on those issues. It’s one area where a short, largely domestic resume, might haunt him.