Sunday, July 31, 2011

Obama Signs Off on the Compromise

Obama has given his indication that he will support and sign the compromise legislation just being put together. As I suspected, this legislation gives Republicans 90% of what they wanted -- maybe even more. There are no tax increases, it's a two phase plan, it has automatic deficit cutting triggers if Congress doesn't accept a bipartisan super-Committee's deficit reduction recommendations, etc., etc. It even allows Congress a chance to vote on a balanced budget amendment, though it's not binding on raising the debt ceiling.

But, you know what? Now that Obama has thrown his support behind it, you can bet your marbles that the rabid reactionaries on the right wing in Congress will now reflexively reject it.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Obama's Deficit/Debt Plan Jujitsu

Wouldn't it be completely ironic if Republicans get 90% of what they wanted in a deficit/debt deal, but that Obama gets to claim such an outcome as a victory and Republicans have to swallow it as a defeat?

That's what GOP obstructionism and the radical wing of the Tea Party will hand over to Obama.

I really thought Obama was going to have to bite the bullet and take a hit with Democrats in promoting a serious budget and deficit-reduction plan if he ever hoped to be re-elected, but that he would come out of such a process badly bruised and having to contend with an aura of defeat. I felt this way even when the Democrats controlled the House.

But, somehow, the GOP has handed Obama a way to enact serious debt/deficit reform, as well as serious tax reform, that should be a Republican's dream, but which will not only minimize the fallout for Obama, but which will also likely make him look like he came out of it smelling like roses.

Conservatives, in their rabid and blind hatred for Obama, have consistently underestimated the man's formidable political skill. I'd even go so far as to suggest that this was Obama's plan from the start. Conservatives are like pawns in Obama's deft and shrewd hands. And my disappointments with Obama aside, that is something remarkable to observe about the man.

GOP Implosion

I wish I could say that I take joy in what appears to be Boehner's failure to rally his troops. While I certainly don't like his plan, it's tragic on such a serious matter that after all this wrangling and time-sucking go-it-alone strategy he couldn't even pull his caucus together.

I just hope he comes to his senses and realizes that if he goes just a couple of steps towards the middle, he can get most of what he's angling for right now and add plenty of democrats on board.

For the tea partiers, their "all or nothing" idea translates into their unwillingness to accept a plan proposed by Harry Reid (and supported by Obama) to cut spending without tax increases while restricting an increase in the debt ceiling to a level below that of the spending cut level. One would think the GOP would see this, even when compared to the Boehner plan, as something more aligned with their ideas than simply doing nothing at all. One would think that they would embrace the idea that the good is not the enemy of the better.

But, hell, they can't even do that. Pitiful.

And if Obama ends up embracing Bowles-Simpson (which I think he will, in the end, especially if he's re-elected), he'll simply box Tea Partiers into a corner.

The conservative invective and hatred towards Obama is such that Obama could propose a Cut/Cap/Balance plan and the anti-Obama rabid faction of the Tea Party GOP still wouldn't support him.

Well ... the people are tuning in and what they are seeing of the House GOP is a mess of dysfunction and right wing obstructionist radicalism.

Ironically, the Tea Party faction does not want to govern in the manner specifically designed by our founding fathers -- a manner that is predicated upon compromise with its multiple layers of checks, balances, and inclusion of minority representation in the process of governing.

Even if tomorrow Boehner manages to salvage something, even if he brings forth a measure more representative of the Tea Party radicals, the damage to his leadership and to the House GOP caucus and its governing credibility is done.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Question for Conservatives re: Debt Plans

If the conservative goal is to cut the deficit without raising taxes, I would like for any conservative to tell me what, exactly, there is in the Reid/Obama proposal that they oppose?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bluegrass Banjo and Dixieland Jazz

They're not all that far apart, come to think of it. Check out this joint effort of The Del McCoury Band and New Orleans' own Preservation Hall Jazz Band on Letterman:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Debt, Deficit Reduction, and Rightwing Hubris/Cynicism

You know what pisses me off immensely in hearing conservatives try to defend the indefensible when it comes to having the wealthier assume a bit more than the poor in helping to solve our debt crisis? It's the arrogant idea that the wealth that the rich earn comes exclusively by the sweat of their own brow and that the society that had no small role in making their wealth possible has no claims on this in moments of national crisis.

The rich are rich in part by the efforts of their own labor and risk-taking -- I'll grant that -- but they are also rich in part (and I'd even argue a larger part) by the broader societal context of the country in which they operate. For the wealthy to look at the current state of our country and to essentially tell the broader society facing this crisis to go screw itself rather than to suffer the "indignity" of a 2% increase in their income taxes is the ultimate expression of cynicism. Why should I face the penalty of a larger hit against my economic security because this country goes into default when those who can afford to save this country from such a calamity by sucking up the "pain" of having to settle for the Jaguar instead of the Ferrari will simply refuse to even entertain this as part of a solution? The rich have to assume their part in how this country got to the point that it did; and for them to pretend that they aren't part of the problem is the ultimate expression of hubris. If they are in it like the rest of us are in it, they sure have a funny way of showing it.

Hell, even I'm willing to pay a bit more in taxes if it will help to put our fiscal house on more solid footing. I guarantee you that my paying a bit more in taxes is much better than my paying 10 times more than that in higher interest rates on my personal debt because of a federal default. You'd think that this would motivate the wealthy, too. It's like they'd much rather pay more in the penalties that would result from a debt default, than pay a little bit more in taxes to avoid such an outcome. If I were a wealthy private sector entrepreneur looking at a spike in interest rates on my outstanding corporate debt and a collapse in market stability for the sale of my product/services, I'd be getting pretty nervous right now. A minor increase in my income taxes would be looking much more rational and sane. And I'd be looking at Washington trying to see who is the more irresponsible party in heading us towards the edge of the cliff, and I'd come away thinking none too highly of the intransigence of the Republicans.

Trust me: everyone except the most blinded partisans can see that Obama has gone a long, long way to meeting the Republicans on terms favorable to their own position (even to the extent of angering the more liberal wing of the Democratic party) -- i.e. significant cuts in discretionary spending, an overhaul of the tax system along a much flatter and simpler tax code, and even painful cuts and reforms to sacrosanct entitlement programs --, and that Republicans simply refuse to meet him anywhere on the continuum, much less halfway.

It's clear to me that Republicans would rather run this country into default than agree to a compromise package of spending cuts and increased revenues (call it tax increases if you will, it doesn't matter) at a 3:1 ratio, respectively, to make a serious dent in our deficit.

Do supposedly fiscally-responsible conservatives not see what would happen if the plan that Obama supports and is proposing would be embraced and passed? Do conservatives think that this plan of fiscal austerity proposed by Obama would be viewed negatively by markets? Is cutting the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years by combining spending cuts and revenue increases a bad thing when it comes to tackling our fiscal problems? Even if you are a conservative, and would prefer a "Cut, Cap, and Balance" solution that involves no new "taxes," you still have to believe that the good (Obama's plan - which WILL dramatically reduce the deficit) is not the enemy of the better when it comes to reducing the deficit; and that the good (deficit reduction Obama-style) is certainly much more preferable than the bad (debt default). But expecting conservative Republicans to be sane and sensible about a real and palatable compromise that cuts the deficit significantly is just too much to ask, isn't it?

This Was My Lunch Today

You can only wish you were me! Eat your sorry hearts out, ladies and gents.

What we got here is a fried softshell crab po-boy with a side order of french fries, a Barq's rootbeer fountain drink in the background, and a Hubig's fried pineapple pie for dessert. Where y'at, dahlins?!?!?!?!

Blogging Sabbatical Coming to an End

As my one or two regular followers know, I have been on a kind of "blogging sabbatical" for the past six months or so. Actually, I can't say that I've missed blogging all that much; though I have missed it a little.

The time away was refreshing in many ways. It really is an intense time-suck. And I haven't actually had much disposable time as of late. But I've had enough, so that's just a bit of a lame excuse. My hiatus has really been more about blogging fatigue and a diminished interest. It's as simple as that.

All that said, I still very much value blogs. I read Andrew Sullivan daily. I check in periodically with a few other national blogs. I keep abreast of the NOLA blogosphere. And I really enjoy those moments when I come across funky new blogs or re-engage with blogs of friends and acquaintances that I find immeasurably enjoyable to read and which give me unique insights into the windows of the minds, personalities, and souls of people I respect and admire.

I also have blogging to thank for some new friendships (that's you, Eric!) that have lasted over the years and which have undoubtedly enriched my intellectual life. I've even had the chance to meet in person and break bread with some very nice folks that I came to know initially through blogs.

So, I have a fondness for the medium for reasons other than as an outlet to upchuck my opinions and rants (though that has always been a nice release, too!).

All of this is to say that I will be recommitting myself to The Huck Upchuck starting now, but really in earnest at the start of the month of August. And to hold my blogger feet to the fire, I will be re-instituting my blogging "self-nudge" to re-start in the month of August. (Interestingly, that whole idea was a product of an online book club experiment that emerged out of my blogging; and the actual book that gave me this idea came from my online friend, Eric, who I met through blogs and who was part of that original online book club!)

In short, my blogging sabbatical is at an end. The Huck Upchuck is back! Let's see how it goes ...