Friday, September 24, 2010

If it worked once ...

When movie studios in Hollywood run short of ideas or are desperate for a hit film, they often churn out sequels to movies that have been big successes in the past. The Republican Party is trying much the same thing. In 1994, Newt Gingrich and the gang came up with the Contract with America, a list of promises that resonated with voters and led to a Republican massacre of Democrats in House and Senate races. Halfway through President Obama’s term, current Republicans are hoping for a replay of that success and have come up with their “Pledge to America.” The main points can be boiled down to this: They’ll cut taxes and at the same time cut government spending. They also promise to repeal Obama's health-care reform law and put an immediate stop to stimulus spending. According to an AP story, the GOP plan is short on specifics in some important areas, but that’s not surprising. If you start answering vital questions, such as how you're going to cut spending or how you’re going to bail out Social Security, you might anger some people, and that’s not advisable in an election year. In this case, honesty appears to be far from the best policy. There’s really nothing new in this “Pledge to America.” But Republicans were fairly giddy about the manifesto, acting as if they had just cured cancer and herpes all in one fell swoop. Republican Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin said, “It’s a contrast to the way we conducted ourselves a decade ago. We spent too much money. We lost our way.” Frankly, if somebody tells me that he helped to spend too much of my money and lost his way, I really don't think I'd be interested in returning him for another shot at it. Ryan might want to avoid that "lost our way" stuff in future speeches. Another Republican congressman, Pete Sessions of Texas, shown above, crowed that “We’ve put things on a sheet of paper.” Well, whoop-de-damn-doo. These fiscally prudent Republicans want to save money by halting the spending of any more stimulus money, but then they want to turn right around and spend about $700 billion to give continued tax relief to rich people. And if you still believe that any significant portion of the money those rich folks get to keep will trickle down into the pockets of the poor, I've got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. One last thing. It's an interesting little story about Pete Sessions, reported by the Politico website. Politico noted that on Sessions' Internet site last year, he referred to congressional earmarks as “a symbol of a broken Washington to the American people.” Sounds like a guy who is taking a stand against government waste. Right? Wrong. Politico went on to report that in 2008, Sessions got a $1.6 million earmark for blimp research for an Illinois company “whose president acknowledges having no experience in government contracting, let alone in building blimps.” How did the company, Jim G. Ferguson & Associates, come to Sessions’ attention? Through Adrian Plesha, a former aide to the congressman who once pleaded guilty to lying to the feds about some dirty political dealing in which he was involved and who made almost half a million dollars for his work with Ferguson & Associates. But if Sessions could help a company in his Dallas-area district create jobs, who could argue with that? Just one problem. The would-be blimp-building company was based in suburban Chicago. At least the company had a second office in San Antonio, far from Sessions’ district but at least in Texas. But somehow, when Sessions turned in his earmark request, the company suddenly had a Dallas address. Did they open a new office? No. According to one of the owners of Ferguson & Associates, that Dallas address was actually for the home of one of his close pals. There was no office there at all. Bottom line: When somebody pledges to you that they're going to take better care of your money than the guys in charge now, check carefully before you swallow it hook, line and sinker. It seems to me that no matter who is running the show – Democrats or Republicans – the lies, ineptitude and corruption don’t change much.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Welcome back Brant. It's been so long since your last post. As usual, I don't agree with most of your opinions but I genuinely enjoy your thought provoking style and top notch writing skills. Please don't let so much time go by until your next post.

September 26, 2010 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Brant said...

Thanks for the kind words. And in reality, the blog works best if people don't agree with me, vehemently, if possible. ;-) After being very busy with other duties for the past six weeks, I have a little free time to attend to the blog, and I'm looking forward to getting back into conversations with people.

September 26, 2010 at 11:18 AM  
Blogger MJ said...

Is it too late to repeal and replace the Iraq war? Although, I guess it's been re-replaced by the AfPak war.

September 27, 2010 at 12:51 AM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I like how a pair of wars costing a trillion dollars paired with an top-heavy tax cut and an unfunded medicaid program count as "we lost our way..." but a 3% tax hike and modest health insurance reforms are examples of socialist death panels that will destroy america.

"We dun goof'd... We sorry..."

September 29, 2010 at 2:54 PM  
Blogger MJ said...


Do you still think the Democrats will gain seats in the House and Senate as you boldly predicted last year?

October 1, 2010 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

Mike, I already told you "no."

They could have... but they didn't act "as if."

My contention then, as it is now... is that the default-result of a midterm election is not to split the executive and the legislature out of some inherent desire of the electorate to divide power. No one votes for a democrat for president and then says "you know, I want it to be as hard as possible for him to get those things passed that made me vote for him to begin with, so I'm going to vote for a republican as my representative or senator."

There aren't many people (statistically speaking) that voted for Obama that will vote for someone like O'Donnel or Paladino. However, there are plenty of people who voted for Obama who WON'T vote for someone like Sestak. Not because Sestak's positions are out of line with their values, but because they aren't motivated to vote for someone whose representation represents 1 435th of the legislative body.

You know that every teabagger is going to vote. Every single one of them. And you know that among your circle of friends (young, progressive, ambitious, moderately well educated), there will be a few that say "awe shoot, I forgot that was today."

Do the tea party or the republicans (but, I repeat myself) have any affirmative ideas... any actual policy initiatives that are quantitatively better than the things they are railing against?

Are there any democrats or independents that voted for Obama who are now going to vote for a tea party candidate or a republican (again, with the redundancy) against a democratic incumbent? I'm serious. Who are these people and what are their reasons? Who are these people who said "I like what this Obama guy is saying what he wants to do" but is now going to vote for Feingold's opponent... or Sharon Angle... ?

The predictions a year ago were based on some premise that "American's like a divided government." That's baloney. The truth is, the folks that are butt-hurt over the last election-cycles' results make it a point to show up the next time.

You are more likely to hit a home run right after you whiffed at a hanging curve.

October 2, 2010 at 2:31 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

I think you're mistaken in your belief that independents who voted for Obama in 2008 won't vote for a Republican next month. It is the independents who will decide this election, and many of them are uncomfortable with the scope of new government programs (I don't know how they could be surprised since the word "CHANGE" was emblazoned on Obama's podium every time the man spoke).

But I do believe many Americans vote against the party in the White House to force both sides to play nice. Of course, it remains to be seen if that's even possible anymore considering how broken the Senate is right now.

One other tidbit is that many of these congressional districts are moderate or lean conservative, but were swept over to the Democrats in 2006 and 08 due to dissatisfaction with Bush. It stands to reason that it won't be too difficult for them to switch back this year.

In conclusion, I still think the Democrats have a 50-50 shot at holding onto the House. The Republicans are relying on flipping districts like PA-12 and PA-4, and I just don't see that happening. Of course, I could be wrong.

October 5, 2010 at 3:12 PM  
Blogger MJ said...

Let me add that Republicans did not sit out the 2008 election, as many people contend. John McCain received 1 million more votes than John Kerry did in 2004 (and the third highest vote total for a presidential candidate).

Independents and first-time voters put Obama over the edge. Now it's more difficult to sway those indies and get the first-timers out for a second round.

October 5, 2010 at 10:19 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

"But I do believe many Americans vote against the party in the White House to force both sides to play nice. "

I would like to know who these people are...

McCain had winning numbers in the last election... what swept obama to victory is that people in our age group (you and me, MJ) and minorities got out and voted.

Regarding those independents... This is ripped from an article I read this week:

"Among the general population, one finding that goes against the received wisdom is that 54 percent of voters say they are more likely to support a candidate who voted for health care reform. That includes 51 percent of independents and nearly 8 in 10 Democrats."

I'm not buying that independents are scared off by the scope of new government programs considering the disillusionment on the left is that the administration has come up short on a number of issues...

In short, my position is that since the general election in 2008, the 2010 midterms were up to the dems to lose... And they've done a good job at losing them...

But what I would ask is: Specifically, which dems are going to lose their seats? And how did those specific dems vote on cap and trade, HCR, Financial Reform, and the stimulus? I have a few websites that track these races, but I don't have the time to follow races in other districts right now... I'll check in on them a week out from election day.

October 6, 2010 at 4:20 PM  
Blogger MJ said...


Kathy Dahlkemper is going to lose her seat this fall because she won two years ago in what is traditionally a very conservative district. Look at the ads Mark Crtiz ran during the primary and general. He said he would've voted against health care reform. Now, his ads refuse to even say he's a Democrat. Even the most popular man in West Virginia, Joe Manchin III, is in a battle against a man who was destroyed by Bob "Barbaric!" Byrd in 2006.

You have to get by the fact that millions of Americans don't think like you. My circle of friends include staunch liberals, moderate liberals, moderates, moderate conservatives, hardcore conservatives... and people who don't care.

Some of my most interesting conversations have been with a buddy who is borderline libertarian. I see the other side of their arguments, even if I don't agree with them.

October 7, 2010 at 4:13 PM  
Blogger Ellipses said...

I understand that people don't think like me and I am exposed to ideas that span the political spectrum from Tea Party to Socialist and from Ron Paul to Bernie Sanders... I'm not saying that there aren't diff'rent strokes for diff'rent folks, I'm saying that people don't vote the polar opposite of their ideals from one election cycle to another. For example, the tea party represents about 22% of the general population, right? Of that 22%, how many voted for Obama? How many people voted "yes" for (referring back to the 2008 campaign)-

a) Universal Health care

b) Significant financial reforms

c) Fundamentally changing America (via progressive policies)

and then, two years later are going to glenn beck rallies and putting "run, sarah run" stickers on their car?

How many people that voted for Dahlkemper are going to vote for her opponent? I'm not saying she won't lose her seat... I'm saying that she will lose not because people that voted for her switched their vote, but because people that voted for her won't vote at all.

Your theory is that people will change their vote. My theory is that the only thing that changes is the proportion that vote for one side or the other... That it's more likely that people that voted for Obama in '08 expecting single payer and an immediate closure of Gitmo are simply not going to go out and vote for Mark Critz. Those people STILL WANT single payer and gitmo closed and DADT repealed and progressive taxation on income up to Eisenhower-era rates and a pragmatic immigration policy and all that... but they don't think Mark Critz is going to bring it to them so they won't vote for Critz. They won't vote for Dahlkemper... they won't vote for Ben Nelson or Mary Landrieu... But they sure as S%#@ ain't voting for Pat Toomey or Michelle Bachmann. Their outlook is "The democrats CAN'T get it done, the republicans WON'T get it done."

And it will swing back the other way in a few years when republicans succeed in decreasing the size of government by 0% because they won't cut anything and they won't raise taxes. They won't repeal HCR. They might cut off the stimulus funding and the TARP disbursements, but that ends up being a fraction of a percent of what's owed on servicing debt and won't make any more of a difference than a rounding error. They won't reverse the demographic trends that are making their ideology extinct... They will merely froth on occasion in big enough numbers to snatch power for a fleeting amount of time and remind the rest of the thinking world why they need to vote every time. When people who can do math and have read a book and can have a conversation using words and phrases not repeated ad nauseum on fox news 24/7 don't get what they want after epic wins like 2006 and 2008, they say screw it and go back to living their normal lives oblivious to the circus of DC. When teabaggers don't get their way (mostly because they can't state what "their way" is without contradicting themselves every other sentence), they band together and vote in lock-step, unwavering unity. All 22% of them. And guess what? 100% of 22% plus whatever crumbs fall off the rest of the pie in your direction ends up being all you need to "win" today in America. What percentage of Delaware voted for O'Donnell? 3% of the population of Delaware? Every teabagger in Delaware voted and that was enough for her to win by 6 points...

If Coons wins Delaware... and both houses of congress go to the republicans anyway... and a republican wins the white house in 2012... I would bet my life that people who voted for O'Donnell would NOT switch their vote to Coons.

October 8, 2010 at 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Can we now assume you'll be voting for Tom Corbett since he's come out in favor of privatizing the state stores?

October 20, 2010 at 1:35 PM  
Blogger Brant said...

It's certainly a good selling point in my book.

October 20, 2010 at 1:47 PM  

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