Call It What It Is

As the Friday deadline creeps up on Arizona Governor Jan Brewer regarding a potential veto of SB 1062 in her state, I think it might be time to call the bill what it is.  If you are not familiar with the bill, it was passed under the guise of “religious freedom,” along party lines, with Republicans voting in favor, and Democrats voting against passage.

The bill would make it legal in Arizona for businesses to discriminate against a patron based on their sexual orientation.  Unreal.

So, let’s call that bill exactly what it is…it is hate.  It is hate mixed with fear, and it is being passed off as religious freedom.

Supporters of the bill claim that doing business with gay people somehow violates their right to practice their chosen religion.  I don’t stoop this low often, but I think an exception is necessary.  That is a stupid argument made by small-minded and simple people.

Can someone please tell me how someone’s sexual orientation infringes on another person’s right to practice their religion?  The simple answer is that it does not.  Which brings us to the essence of this bill in Arizona.

It is hate, pure and simple.  Now, I know that not all conservatives or Republicans hate homosexuals, but the voices in that camp sure are louder than the voices of reason.  John McCain’s opposition is being drowned out by the hate-filled ramblings of Rush Limbaugh, and sadly, more people look to Rush to give them their opinions than listen to voices of reason like John McCain (at least on this issue he is being a voice of reason).

I am sick and tired of people hiding behind the Bible and religion to spread their hate.  I thought the Bible was all about love and forgiveness and atonement for sins, but too many people use it as their handbook for hate.

Supporters of this bill that legalizes hate will scream loud and proud (although why would they be proud of being hate-filled people?) that their right to practice their religion is being trampled on by serving gays.  Wrong.  Plain and simple.  Serving homosexuals does not infringe on anybody’s right to practice their religion.  If you think otherwise, you need to think again.

Let me put it another way.  What if Governor Brewer does not veto and allows this type of discrimination to take place?  What would the outrage be if this were law and a Muslim business owner or Jewish business owner refused to serve someone who is a Christian?  I bet Arizona Republicans would be beside themselves if that were to take place.  That, my friends, is hypocrisy in the truest form.

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Is Spending My Problem?

For this entry, I am going to provide a purely anecdotal example of what I have both observed and experienced since the summer of 2009.  For some people (many people?), this example may hold true and be closer to reality than it is to fiction.  Please bear with me as I ponder what is a point of contention in Washington, D.C., and that is the issue of spending and revenue.

Let’s say, for example, that in the summer of 2009, you were working in a job that you really loved, with people you enjoyed seeing daily, and for a company that you felt a “connection” with.  You lived within your means, meaning you had an affordable mortgage (you didn’t give in to the temptation that came with inflated home values associated with the now-burst housing bubble), no car payments, no credit card debt.  You did not spend money on needless items.  You were living comfortably.

In July 2009, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the price for a gallon of milk averaged $2.992.  (source)  Not too bad.

Fast forward to present day.  You still really love your job, enjoy the people you work with, and still have that “connection” to your company, but over the past almost four years, you have not gotten a raise because the economic downturn impacted the ability of your company to give you a raise.  But, you have maintained your same salary, which when compared to being unemployed and making no salary, is a pretty sweet deal.  Nothing else has changed in your life; you still have your affordable mortgage, no car payment, and still no credit card debt.

Along with other items, however, the average cost for a gallon of milk has risen, to $3.48 last month. (source)

Because the price of one of your household staples has gone up, along with pretty much everything else at the grocery store, your checking account does not seem as healthy as it did in July 2009.

Given this scenario, which statement is more truthful about you?  That you have a spending problem, or that you have a revenue problem?

The answer, to me at least, is that you have a revenue problem.  It is almost inevitable that the price of goods is going to rise, which has been the case since July 2009.  Your problem in this scenario is not that you have increased your spending, it is that your income (revenue) has been stagnant.  Could you adjust what you purchase to reduce your overall grocery bill?  Of course you could.  But there is also a floor at which you need to spend in order to be able to adequately provide nourishment for your body, so it is untenable to think that you could reduce your bill to zero.  Wouldn’t your situation improve greater if you were to increase your income (revenue)?  Yes it would!

That is where the members of Congress, on both sides, become blind to the facts.  To ignore the spending problem that Congress does have (it’s unrealistic to blame any President for actual spending since Congress controls the proverbial checkbook) would be a futile effort.  Spending does have to come down, and I doubt that any reasonable person would be able to say otherwise while keeping a straight face.  But here is something else that is true: revenue also has to increase, if for no other reason than to keep up with an increase to the cost of goods purchased.  What is the primary source of revenue for the federal government?  If you said “taxes,” you are correct.  For anybody to bury their head in the sand and think that tax revenue can be reduced and spending cuts the only way out of the country’s budgetary issues is a disservice to those people who voted them into office.  That would be along the same lines as taking the scenario above and you telling your company that they can cut your pay by 25%, and you would be just fine with that.  You wouldn’t.

For Congress to truly make serious strides to get its budgetary house in order, both sides are going to have to be reasonable.  Democrats are going to have to be serious about cutting spending, and Republicans are going to have to be serious about increasing tax revenues.  The mandatory spending cuts implemented by the sequester are just a start, as is the slight tax increase to those in the upper-income brackets that occurred earlier this year.  More has to be done on both ends.  Until both sides come to the table in good faith, we, voting public, will be stuck wading through more of the same BS and political posturing.

A New Low

About two weeks ago, I wrote about Rick Santorum and some of the loonier members of the Republican Party who were coming out in an effort to defeat the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.  It made me sick to think that some would use this treaty as a political football with some ill-conceived belief that ratification of the treaty would infringe on the sovereignty of our country.  I thought that maybe, just maybe, there would be enough sanity in the Senate to obtain the 66 votes needed to ratify the treaty.  I was wrong.  38 Republican Senators voted against the treaty, while 8 used common sense and joined the 51 Democrats and 2 Independents who voted to ratify the treaty (source).

The U.N. Convention, contrary to what Rick Santorum or Senator Mike Lee would have you believe, does not infringe on the right of parents to home-school their children.  It would not have given the United Nations the right to come in and take over our country if they felt like we were not meeting the needs of those with disabilities.  Nope, it would not have done any of that.  In fact, it was modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

It is troublesome to me how many conspiracy theorists are out there, and how much influence they have.  In defeating this treaty, we have signaled to the world that we are content to merely be chasing our tails.  Again, the Senate failed to ratify a treaty that is modeled after existing American law and standards.  All that ratification would have done is tell the rest of the world that we agree to meet our own standard.  That’s all.  Just stand behind our own law.  But 38 Senate Republicans failed miserably.

Honestly, it is not surprising to me at all.  The tone that Senate Republicans have set since President Obama took office January 20, 2009 has been to block almost every bill that has been up for a vote.  They obstruct everything they possibly can at every turn.  And why would they stop now?  Why not block a treaty that is modeled after something that is our established law and has enjoyed broad bipartisan support since its inception in 1990?

If you, or someone in your family, or someone you care about has a disability, and you voted for one of the 38 Senators who voted against this treaty, you have no room to complain in my book.  For better or for worse, we have to own the votes and legislation that those who we vote for cast.  That is how a representative democracy works.  Does that mean that if you voted for one of the 38 miserable people who voted against this that I think you are against people with disabilities?  Absolutely not.  What it does show is that the person you voted for would rather hold a hard partisan stance for no good reason.  That is part of the issue here, too.  This was not a partisan issue at all.  It’s not like Senate Democrats proposed raising taxes to 97% on rich people and these 38 Republicans balked at that idea.

38 Senate Democrats Republicans* reached a new low last week.  The question remains:  will it signal that they have reached rock bottom, or will they plunge even further?

*Corrected after an astute catch by Ryan.

My Solution

I figure since everyone else is weighing in with how they would fix the “fiscal cliff” mess, I should offer my two cents.  And you may not be surprised at what you read here.

I will start by saying that, at least on the surface, the President and Senate Democrats seem to hold most of the cards in this negotiation.  They have made specific proposals, whereas the Republicans really have not offered many specifics at all.  Instead, they just go on TV and rail against what the Democrats have proposed and turn tail and run.  That is neither leadership or governing, but that is to be expected.

My solution comes close to what the White House proposed yesterday, that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “burst out laughing” at when it was being outlined.  More tax revenue.  Check.  Yes, that means higher tax rates.  Cuts to spending.  Check.  The government wastes a lot of money on duplication and triplication, not to mention overpaying for things.  Yesterday’s offer from the White House included the following:

a $1.6 trillion tax increase, an extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance, as well as a request for $50 billion dollars in new stimulus spending for fiscal year 2013. (source)

The only real issue I have with that proposal is the $50 billion in new spending, even though it is for infrastructure improvements.  I would rather they eliminate that from the proposal and find that amount elsewhere in the budget.

If nothing is resolved by the end of the year, our tax rates will revert to what they were when President Clinton left office.  Across the board, for all income levels, taxes will increase.  This is not necessarily a bad thing for Democrats.  They will get the tax increases they want, and will be in a position of strength to then negotiate a retroactive tax cut for those making below $250,000; either way, it looks like those making above that amount will see higher taxes in 2013, and the situation is a little less clear for those of us who make less than that.  From what I recall, when President Clinton left office, our economy was robust and growing, and our government had a balanced budget and was paying down the debt annually.

Yes, a higher tax rate on my pay will affect my household budget, but looking at the long-term picture, that might not be a bad thing.  If the economy returns to where it was when Clinton left office, I will be making more anyway.  And for all of the talk about higher taxes hurting “job creators” (rich people), I would like to point out that, with a higher tax rate in January 2001 when Clinton left office, unemployment was at 4.2% (source).  If higher taxes make it to where “job creators” create fewer jobs, why was unemployment so low back then?  Did it have anything to do with the robust economy creating more demand for products and services, thus creating the demand for more jobs?

The root of the problem in a deal not being made is that neither side really wants to work together.  If they were serious, something would have been done already.  Maybe they should be forced to do one of the following: be locked in a room with a certain amount of food and water provisions, say 3 days, and hammer out a deal.  No leaving until a deal is done; take to the skies for negotiations, and they would have until the plane ran out of fuel to make a deal.  No deal when the fuel runs out, sorry about your luck.  Do you think that would expedite the process?  Or they could do something less drastic that may not eventually lead to starvation or plummeting from the sky, and they could stay in Washington until the job is done.  No Christmas recess.  If they want to be home in time for Christmas, get something accomplished.  Just because this will be the least productive Congress in history does not mean they cannot get this done before the end of the year.

Loud and Clear

In addition to the message I believe the electorate sent to our politicians during this past election cycle, I think a few more things became a little more clear.

*As a country, we are becoming more accepting of LGBT individuals.  Sending Tammy Baldwin to the Senate to represent Wisconsin was a big step, along with three states (Maine, Maryland, and Washington) approving same-sex marriage measures that appeared on their ballots.  We cannot simply “pray away the gay” and it looks like we are heading toward being a country that truly believes in marriage equality (and before I get any suggestions about the Biblical nature of marriage, why is it we have to apply for a marriage license from our state instead of a church?).  There is growing support for truly keep church and state as separate entities, and three states made that statement last night.

*Women’s reproductive rights are important, and not only to women.  Yes, I know there are plenty of women who are pro-life and want to ban abortions, and I respect their view, but the message sent in re-electing Barack Obama (with 1-3 Supreme Court nomination likely in the next 4 years) is loud and clear.  Roe v. Wade is here to stay.

*Defining rape is stupid, and maybe people do not agree that a pregnancy from a rape really is “God’s will.”

*There really is no “faith test” for a candidate for President, and nor should there be.  For the longest time, all I ever heard or read was that our President must be a Christian.  JFK was Roman Catholic, and that freaked people out some.  At last glance, some 58 million people voted for Mitt Romney, and I have to believe that a good number of them did so because they truly backed him, not because of hate for President Obama or sour grapes left over from 2008.  That being said, of those same 58 million, I want to believe that a vast majority of them could not care less that Romney is a Mormon.  And that is a good thing.  Nobody’s religion, or lack thereof, should disqualify them from public office, or be used as some sort of litmus test on how they would govern.

*Too many people still do not understand the Electoral College.  And that is sad.  I hope people read up on the process before 2016, especially since I read multiple suggestions that Obama could be the President of the states that went for him, and Romney could be President of the states that went for him.  That is not how this country works, at least as the United States of America.

My true hope is that our country will rally together and put pressure on both parties to do what is best for our country.  Our country is not full of hard-right, Tea Party people any more than it is full of hard-left, granola eating tree huggers.  We are somewhere between the two extremes, and it is time to stop the partisan BS.  Government is neither the cause of all of our problems nor the answer to all of our problems.  We the people are the answer.  We can respectfully disagree on issues and still get things accomplished.  Compromise is not a dirty word.  To paraphrase then-Senator (now President) Barack Obama in his Keynote Address at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, “we are not a red America, and a blue America, we are the United States of America.”

That Got Me Wondering

Because it has been a while, I was wondering…

*Is is 2012 or 1950?  Why is that everybody is quick to play the “race card” about the election?  Colin Powell endorses President Obama?  Must be because he is black.  John McCain supports Romney?  Must be a racist.
I am sick and tired of everything boiling down to race.  Are people in our country still consumed with racist views?  Absolutely, and I feel sorry for them.  But for someone to claim that General Powell is supporting Obama because they are both black is insane.  And that is what Romney campaign co-chair John Sununu did yesterday:

“[F]rankly, when you take a look at Colin Powell, you have to wonder whether that’s an endorsement based on issues or whether he’s got a slightly different reason for preferring President Obama?” Sununu told CNN’s Piers Morgan, per the Washington Post. When Morgan followed up what that reason might be, Sununu replied, “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being President of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him.”

Give me a break already.  Just because General Powell is a Republican who served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush does not automatically make it to where he has to back the Republican candidate.  If it were that simple, why even bother with elections at all?  We could all just register with whatever party we wanted, and that would be the end of it; party affiliation alone does not define the informed voter, and neither does race.

*Is Ann Coulter suffering from some sort of traumatic brain injury that nobody knows about?
That would be the only plausible explanation for her continued name-calling of the President and his supporters (click here for more, and the link will also direct you to more examples).

*Why do people insist on posting every political thought they have on Facebook?
We get it, you are not voting for President Obama.  There is no need to constantly update your status with how much you hate him.  I specifically use that example because my own Facebook friends list is compiled of both Republicans and Democrats, and it is rare that any of my friends who are supporters of President Obama put anything negative about Romney as their status; that is all I see from most of my Republican friends.  That is not to say that all supporters of each candidate have fallen into that pattern, but it is a pretty good sample size.

*I will be impressed if Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight is as accurate this election as he was in 2008.
In 2008, he accurately called 49 out of 50 states early in the evening.  On Super Tuesday during the primaries, he predicted that Obama would pick up 833 delegates; he came within 12.

Election Day is right around the corner.  Vote, but be informed about who you are voting for.  Don’t just take the talking heads on TV at their word.  Check your facts at sites like Fact Check.  Educate yourself.  Don’t believe everything you read, even on this blog; blogs are by natured opinionated, and no matter how hard I try to be fair in what I write, my personal bias is still present, so take what you read here and compare it to other sites.

One For The Road

14 days until Election Day, and last night was the last of the 4 debates (3 between Romney and Obama, 1 between Biden and Ryan).  And, even if you are not a foreign policy person, this was left a lasting impression, or at least it should have.

First, as is my custom, let’s look at what the polls taken in the immediate aftermath of the debate said.  Neither were much of a surprise.  CBS had President Obama winning 53% to 23%, while CNN had Obama winning 48% to 40%.

The biggest takeaway for me from last night’s debate was that Mitt Romney just seemed to either be clueless or lacking confidence in the subject matter.  For a candidate who, in the past, has stopped just short of calling for us to bomb Iran on Inauguration Day, he was timid at his best last night.  While he tried and tried to steer the topic back to domestic policy, Romney seemed way out of his element when talking about foreign policy.  He seemed content to agree with and applaud the President for pretty much everything he has done since taking office.  Pulling troops out of Iraq?  Great job, Mr. President.  Timeline in Afghanistan?  We are right there with you, Mr. President.  Giving the order to take out Bin Laden?  Kudos, sir.  These, and many other topics, are ones that Romney has disagreed with the President consistently recently.

President Obama did more than hold his own last night.  He defended and explained his foreign policy very well.  Honestly, it seemed like he dominated the debate last night.  It was like watching the Washington Generals take on the Harlem Globetrotters.  Mr. Obama had a response for everything Romney tried to nail him on.  Sanctions for Iran?  Mr. Romney was in agreement with the President.

In what was probably my favorite moment of the night, Romney tried to nail Mr. Obama about the current level of ships in our Navy.  Romney tried to say that Mr. Obama was all for reducing the size of the Navy because there are fewer ships these days (something like 285 or so, which is a lot less than the 680 our Navy had during Vietnam, by the way).  Below is President Obama’s response:

“You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916. Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military’s changed. We have these things called aircraft carriers, where planes land on them. We have these ships that go underwater, nuclear submarines.”

I absolutely loved that moment.  Basically, President Obama was giving Mitt Romney an education about our military.  It is not necessarily the number of ships in the fleet, but the quality of work that they do.  It would seem to me that it is better to have 285 or so highly effective ships in the fleet than to increase that number while possibly decreasing effectiveness.  Our Navy is the best in the world without a doubt, and they are not going to improve because they have more ships.  Our Navy, and our military as a whole, will continue to lead the world as long as we continue to lead in our military technology development.  Mitt Romney got schooled.

At the conclusion of the debate, as is the custom, the families of each candidate came on stage.  That is always an odd moment to me with them all happily chatting away with each other like they are at a cocktail party.  Before the debate, I was sure that Tagg Romney was in the audience, and would be ready and willing to charge onto the stage and flip the table over when President Obama called out his dad; luckily that did not happen.  After the debate, I watched closely to see if Tagg would be cautious in approaching the President, given that he had threatened him last week.  The two did meet and shake hands, and I would love to know what was said.  In my head, President Obama said something like, “Tagg, be careful when you threaten me because I hear Gitmo gets hot in the summer.”  That is most likely not what he said, but it is probably what I would have said.