Monday, March 28, 2005

Response on Terry Schiavo

I think this is a subject upon which reasonable and wholly rational people may disagree. The most important thing I can add to this debate is that I am saddened that an intensely personal and difficult family matter has become fodder for a national media circus. Even the Shindler family has had to ask the protesters to tone it down, reminding them that the family can and does speak for itself, and that the protestors do not. This is an area into which politicians don't normally venture, and yet it appears that many have become involved for their own gain (or to prevent "political loss of face") .

I believe that both parties are disgustingly using the Schiavo issue for partisan hacking and or gain. And I am sickened by it on both sides of the aisle. The Democrats indicated their willingness to take action by unanimous consent, many of them refusing to vote or speak about their respective consciences. Yet we are all aware that some of them believed that this was a prime example of a Republican government deeply overreaching into private lives. These are people (Senators and Representatives) who are stridently opposed to the regulation of "marriage," or in matters regarding sexuality, believing them to be private things out of which the government should stay. Yet they are apparently comfortable hopping in bed with those who would deem to make legislative life and death decisions that are clearly private family matters. And it appears that a recent alleged "Republican Talking Points Memo," is in fact a fake, perhaps planted by Democratic operatives.

Just in case you think I believe the Republicans fare better on this issue, let me make clear that I do not. The Republicans, like a freight train speeding out of control in reverse towards the inevitable cliff of insanity, are reaching deep into the alleged sanctity of the private family, and legislating completely private matters on behalf of a single individual! Meanwhile, the cry of "small government" lies squealing for mercy, tied to the tracks of the GOP, completely aware of it's rapidly approaching demise. Oh where, oh where have "conservatives" gone?

As for the President's record on the pro-choice / right to life issue, I think you may be correct. This is just an opinion, but perhaps he's not as strident as everyone made him out to be. Remember, personal beliefs on single issues do not mean that those will be central policy pieces of any Administration.

For example, I do believe that President Clinton intended to remove all policies against homosexuality in the military upon taking office. However, faced with the actual political reality of doing so, Clinton did an about face, and left the gay community out to dry. Further, under political pressure, he signed the Defense of Marriage Act. I have heard this referred to as the most openly anti-gay act in American history. Yet, I still think President Clinton believed in what he planned to do. But the military and political realities of the time prevented him from doing so.

And congratulations, while this has long been a bone of contention in the "far right" of the Republican Party, you are the first Democrat I have run across who understands that President Bush, intentionally or not, has been the best friend the pro-choice movement has ever had. During a time when Roe v. Wade is the most vulnerable to being overturned as anytime in its history, and when the public climate has most supported it, President Bush has not pushed the issue as many Democrats feared he would. The fundamental "right to choose" has been safe from all but rhetoric during President Bush's term. Agree with the rhetoric or not, factually it's true.

Out of each of life's seemingly insane situations, some good must arise. This is no exception. Out of the Schiavo / Shindler family public spectacle comes awareness of an important issue. We are a society that does not believe in facing death. We let it come, and we are unprepared for it's vagaries. It's almost as if we didn't know it was coming. But in the last two weeks, the Shindlers and Schiavos have given us the gift of awareness. It's hard to imagine being unaware of the potential consequences of lack of planning.

If you are an adult in the United States, the odds are that you are now aware of your responsibility to plan for all eventualities and to have a "health directive" on file so that your family and loved ones know your wishes. It's called "personal responsibility," and though it now seems somewhat out of style, it's the bedrock upon which this nation was built.

The American Bar Association offers free forms and provides online resources available at their website. It's a good starting place. Be responsible. There are people who love you that might appreciate it someday.

I hope your Easter (however you celebrate, or even if you don't) was as filled with love and joy, as mine was.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

What we can learn from Terri Schaivo

It's been way too long since anything's been posted by either of us, so I thought I would take a stab at something that has been given entirely too much thought and attention lately: Terri Schaivo. Recent actions in the Senate, by President Bush, and his brother Jeb, leave me scratching my head. I was hoping that my favorite band of conservatives could help to provide an explanation about what the hell is going on here.

I've seen the discussions, the debates, the protests, the people being arrested for attempting to bring Schaivo water, and I feel like I have a pretty decent grasp on what the issue is here. For a large number of religious people in our country, Schaivo's situation represents protecting life, which all of the sudden has become very important. The sad irony here is that many of these people are the same ones who supported bombing Iraq into the stone age. What's even more sick and sad is the fact that thousands of Americans suffer similar fates each year as the result of persistent vegetative conditions, and no one shows up in their honor.

The political three-ring circus that has resulted from this situation is even more disgusting. While the President, his brother and Congress sit by every year and let thousands of Americans with similar conditions die without even choking on a pretzel, the Terri Schaivo case apparently warrants it's own laws and judicial consideration. What is so special about this situation that it differs from the thousands of other Americans who live in this condition?

It's certainly not Terri's hope for recovery. An entire team of nationally-respected neurologists have evaluated Terri previously and determined that her condition is permanent and terminal. The definition of a persistent vegetative state is based on those two features. Jeb Bush in the last two days has made claims that Terri may have been misdiagnosed. He even has a neurologist who is apparently willing to back him up. Does Jeb tell us what the neurologist thinks Terri's actual diagnosis is? Of course not. It's a disgusting abuse of medical opinion for political gain.

Congress and the President saw the Terri Schaivo case as a publicized opportunity to appear to care about a "Culture of Life". The President hasn't seemed to concerned with life lately. As the Governor of Texas, he was our country's most experienced practitioner of the death penalty, executing more prisoners than any other STATE has since the death penalty was reauthorized in 1977. All of this during a time when other states, including Illinois, elected to commute death sentences to life in prison because the death penalty is fraught with injustice.

The President and his friends in Congress NEEDED to do something to support a culture of life. After all, abortion is still legal, even after all that talk during the campaign about a culture of life and support from the religious right. How would you like to be the religious right these days? No abortion ban, no constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Even Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act while President. Wasn't Bush supposed to be more conservative? We all know from our previous discussions that his spending habits haven't been, but now it also appears that he's selling out his religious base as well.

I'm really not trying to pick a fight here. I just want someone from the right to explain to me why Terri Schaivo is more important than the thousands of Americans who die as the result of being denied nutrition during a persistent vegetative state? Why does Bush talk about a culture of life, and despite all his political capitol, not do anything to back it up? I'm beginning to wonder if maybe I should have voted for Bush, since he's protected a women's right to choose for over 5 years now, despite having the Congress and Supreme Court that would be needed to get things done. Or maybe the President really is Pro Choice? I'll be interested to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

A few points of clarification

Before we start all this talk about house training and calling people dishonest, let's be straight about a few things here. Not one single thing that was written in my previous post was dishonest. From reading OtM's last post, you'd think that I said Bush was aborting fetae or some nonsense like that. Since this is a debate, let's actually look at what OtM addressed of my previous comments.

OtM spends as much time as Shakespeare took writing Henry V (which for those of you from Alabama or Utah was a LONG time) hammering on me for claiming to be an arrogant bastard. I figured I was just pointing out the obvious. I think that's one thing we can all agree on. He tries to use it to harm the credibility of my previous post, but that's why I put links in what I write, so that regardless of what type of bastard I happen to be, you, as the reader, can explore things and make up your mind on your own. It's not just my opinion. I'm giving you links to look at things for yourself, so that if you disagree with me, we can discuss it. I guess if providing links to the Congressional Record so that we can all read the bills that we're discussing represents a lack of research, as OtM said, I'm not sure what the standard of proof is here.

OtM goes on to say that he did address my previous comments on Social Security with this statement:
"I'll concede Ottl's point in a previous post that some powerless Democratic Senators have proposed alternatives (in part), but not one has been so much as even mentioned by the Democratic leadership in a press conference, let alone championed as an alternative plan. In fact, the Democrats are in all out attack and defeat mode instead of championing any alternative ideas. But that is standard fare for the Democrats." OTM
If you go back and read the original post, you will see that it's not just the Democrat's proposals, but also bipartisan proposals that are being offered as alternatives to the President's plans for Social Security. I wanted to have a discussion comparing some of the alternatives that are out there to the President's plan.

One of the reasons that Democrats are in attack mode is that, as OtM pointed out, in may cases they are politically helpless without bipartisanship. If they don't work with Republicans, they may not be able to pass ANY legislation. This is one of the reasons why many of the proposals I outlined for Social Security and the Budget Deficit are bipartisan plans. The Democrats know they have no choice but to cooperate with Republicans on key issues, or risk losing complete control in Congress.

OtM has not taken the opportunity to discuss any of the alternative, bipartisan legislation that's out there, despite the fact that in all my "poor" research, I provided links to the actual legislation so that people could make up their own minds, and maybe we could have a discussion that didn't involve OtM accusing Democrats of playing politics. The ignoring that I was talking about is OtM's denial that the Democrats, despite their politically helpless situation in Congress, have continued to propose alternative solutions. Because the MSM isn't discussing them, I figured this might be a good place to have that discussion. Apparently not.

OtM goes on to cite numerous examples of those who question the President's spending habits, which is EXACTLY what I wanted him to show us, since I was unable to find examples myself. I do enjoy searching the internet, but I am not the expert that OtM is, particularly when it comes to Conservatives Blogs. I knew if I asked, he would provide the evidence, so that we could have a discussion about it. Hence, the reason that I included this in my last post:
I'm certain that there are conservatives out there who, like OtM and Mountain Man, are calling the President out on this, but it's simply not happening in the established conservative media, including blogs. It's not even happening in the traditionally liberal MSM.
I'm glad that he provided some evidence in this area, because I find it quite fascinating that there is evidence that conservatives actually don't think the President is the second coming of Jesus Christ.

My point was simply that for an average person looking at a good sample of conservative media and websites, you wouldn't see the outrage about the President's spending, unless you looked very closely. I wasn't accusing OtM of lying about the conservative media. Such a statement, even given my own arrogance, would be beyond ridiculous, since I would be claiming to know the conservative media far better than someone who actually has extensive knowledge on the subject. I'm not THAT unreasonable.

All I'm asking for is to have a discussion that doesn't involve statements such as: The Democrats are Devoid of Ideas, when it is apparent that despite their obvious political disadvantage in Congress, many of them have crossed over the aisle to work with Republicans on alternatives to the President's proposals. Not because the Democrats are better or smarter people, or because they care about America, but because their political lives depend on it. I provided examples so that we could discuss those policies.

How have the Democrats in the Senate been rewarded for their attempts at bipartisanship? As this article points out, despite the fact that Democrats allowed 219 of Bush's 229 judicial nominees during his first term (and filibustered only 10), the Republicans might invoke "the nuclear option" and attempt to eliminate the filibuster, to push through all of Bush's judicial nominees, including a replacement for ailing Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist. All they need to do this is a simple majority vote.

OtM has taken numerous posts to hammer home the point that Democrats are not supportive of bipartisanship, despite my numerous examples provided in the last few posts in Social Security reform and Resolving the Budget Deficit. Despite that fact and the Republicans significant resistance to Clinton's judicial nominees (which if you need a refresher, check this link out), they seem to have a short memory when it comes to what bipartisanship really means.

True Bipartisanship - Rebuttal - Absolute Lies and a Total Lack of Real Research

Well, once again, I find myself in agreement with something said by OttL in his post on Bipartisanship. Here's the quote:

"Pattern #1 is that I'm an arrogant bastard." OttL
Unfortunately, I am going to have to agree with at least part of that one. defines arrogant as follows:

"1. Having or displaying a sense of overbearing self-worth or self-importance.
2. Marked by or arising from a feeling or assumption of one's superiority toward others"

I guess there's no need for me to actually demonstrate the fact that OttL is arrogant. For some reason, he's proudly claimed the title for himself. And while many liberals act in this manner (and yes, many don't), I know few who will gladly take the title. Even those who are, often deny it. Bravo to OttL for admitting it. And a caution to all of you who read his posts; you now must understand that they derive, at least in part, from his self proclaimed arrogance. He apparently thinks he's pretty darn important and far superior to those of you who read this blog.

As for the second part of the quote, wherein OttL calls himself a "bastard" I suppose we need a bit of clarification. defines "bastard" in the following manner:

"1. A child born out of wedlock.
2. Something that is of irregular, inferior, or dubious origin.
3. Slang. A person, especially one who is held to be mean or disagreeable."

In regard to #1, I can't speak about OttL's parentage. Unlike OttL, I won't speak about things that I can't or don't adequately research. In regard to definition number two, well, if he's not #1, and he chose the term of "bastard" to refer to himself, let the chips fall where they may. He's either "irregular, inferior, or of dubious origin," or perhaps only #3 fits. As to #3, clearly he's made that one fit by stating that he's an "arrogant bastard" and that
"The only reason I draw so much satisfaction from it is that it pisses those of you who disagree with me off." OttL

Enough said there. I don't get it, but it's apparently what he was looking for.

Now on to my disagreement and rebuttal. First of all, OttL says that he's not "changing anyone's mind" regardless of the quality of his arguments or supporting evidence. Let's start with the fact that he's certainly not going to score any points, intellectually or otherwise by claiming he is an "arrogant bastard" who is intellectually superior. Perhaps a few lessons in social etiquette, and he might find himself more able to muster a convincing argument, rather than simply insulting those who read this blog. How could one get past his opening about being such an arrogant bastard and then take anything he writes seriously?

Now a big surprise for OttL. He occasionally changes my mind and teaches me things. And I'm the chief conservative here. I invited him on board here at World Debate because though we might disagree, he occasionally changes my perspective or enriches my knowledge base through his thorough research and sharp prose. So, OttL, contrary to your thoughts, you do make a difference in the dialogue if you can contain your belief in your personal superiority long enough to get your point across. Unfortunately, in the present post you have failed miserably in every regard.

So disagreement aside, and a lesson in etiquette given, let's go to the rebuttal. Here's another great yet completely factually inaccurate quote from OttL which is an outright lie simply intended to make me look bad.
"Recall during our Social Security discussion, however, that after OtM's tirade about how little Democrats had contributed to solutions for the Social Security system and bipartisan dialogue in Congress, I gave multiple actual examples of bills that had been introduced either by Democrats and Republicans or Democrats alone, that were fundamentally different than the President's plan. The conservative response: Nill. If you don't believe me, go back and read it for yourself. No discussion of the actual proposals, just outright ignoring." OttL

That is a very interesting and inaccurate memory. Perhaps OttL doesn't know how to scroll down a page. The following is my response to OttL revealing that there were in fact, proposed Democratic alternatives to President Bush's Social Security Plan:
"I'll concede Ottl's point in a previous post that some powerless Democratic Senators have proposed alternatives (in part), but not one has been so much as even mentioned by the Democratic leadership in a press conference, let alone championed as an alternative plan. In fact, the Democrats are in all out attack and defeat mode instead of championing any alternative ideas. But that is standard fare for the Democrats." OTM

Now remember, he said that my response was "Nil" and "just outright ignoring." That's pretty clear. Not that he disagreed with me, or that my response was in a post on our next subject, or that it was inadequate. He said that I completely failed to respond. But, as Ottl so arrogantly said to you, "go read it for yourself." And unlike OttL, I mean that with the utmost humility. I'm just trying to create some decorum here, and stick to the truth, as it is in print here. Bottom line, he's simply making this up. I responded, and even gave him credit for showing me something that I didn't know existed (yes, he taught me something). Yet he somehow thinks it's a good idea to pretend that I ignored him.

Now to slice and dice OttL's contention that fiscal conservatives aren't attacking the President's lack of fiscal discipline. Here's what he said:
"Did I find a single blog, website, news organization that wrote something critical of the President's spending? No, and OtM has done an excellent job of getting a good sample of excellent conservative websites over there." OttL

Previously, OttL had shown tremendous tenacity and skill as a web researcher. Here, simple research would have shown that my contention was true and that there is a conservative backlash which has been consistent for years against this President's big spending policies. Apparently he is too "arrogant" to bother with the research, so now I am forced to do it for him.

Now those who read them (and OttL is among us) know that blogs are creatures of the moment. Whatever is in the news that day or that week will be written about extensively in the blogs of the moment. This week we are reading about Iraq suicide bombings, the nomination of new U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., daily developments from Lebanon, the killing of the family of a prominent Federal Court Judge, etc. etc. etc. The Federal Budget is absent from the current news. Yet somehow, OttL has decided by clicking on the links to conservative blogs on World Debate, if what I am saying is true, then he should find rancor and revolt about the debate on those blogs. I had to laugh when I read that.

If he wanted to know if what I was saying was true, he could have searched the archives of the blogs, or even easier, done a simple Google search like I did. I simply typed in "Bush budget not conservative." Below are just a few of the dozens upon dozens of links I found with content that supports my position. - Online Version of the Indianapolis Star - TODAY - Alan Framm- AP

"Reflecting the House's more conservative tenor, its budget seeks $69 billion in such savings, cutting almost $20 billion deeper than the president suggested.That will set the stage for months of partisan battling. "Personally, I -- and I know many of my colleagues -- would like to have gone even further" in restraining spending, said House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, R-Iowa."

From -
Bush Pledges Spending Limit
The biggest complaint of conservatives like us about the Bush administration has been its apparent lack of interest in reining in spending. (link)

CPAC Meeting Shows Frustration of Fiscal Conservatives - Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) -- has become over the last three decades, the premier annual gathering of conservatives and one of the most important political events in the nation. If the representatives of the nations CONSERVATIVE Political Action Committees don't represent overall conservative political opinion (love 'em or hate 'em), I have no idea who might.

[February 21, 2005] "Fiscal conservatism is on life-support!"(link)

Victor Davis Hanson (Highly Respected Conservative Historian) - Jan. 28, 2005 - Questioning why fiscal conservatives are no longer fiscally conservative, and complaining about it. (link)

"Shrink Government, the Right Tells the Right" - NYT

Reform revolt spreads from RSC to centrists - The Hill, The Newspaper For and About the U.S. Congress. Conservative lawmakers also agreed to demand that the Republican House budget include greater discretionary and mandatory spending cuts than President Bush's budget.

I could spend many hours doing this, but I think I've proven my point. OttL didn't even have the common decency to do a quick Google search to determine if there was any truth to my statements. Instead, he simply played the 'I couldn't find it on the blogs' card. He may be an arrogant bastard, but we aren't stupid enough to fall for that.

And last but not least on OttL's dishonesty here, in my post I said that the conservative base was following the lead of the "talking heads" like Limbaugh, Savage and Hewitt. And notice that he couldn't and didn't try to refute that. Yet ALL liberals I have ever spoken to acknowledge that the most prolific and strongest of the conservative voices are mostly on talk radio. Now I understand and acknowledge that OttL couldn't (and shouldn't have to stomach) days upon days of conservative talk radio. But he could have at least acknowledged that he didn't have a clue what was going on there, so he couldn't comment. Unfortunately, he simply chose to reinforce the stereotype that most conservatives have of liberals, which is that they think they know everything. Wait, maybe he does. He has told us he is an "arrogant bastard" right?

I have to be honest, I'm burnt out on this subject, and a bit disappointed. Because OttL chose to take the "arrogant bastard" route, and because he had to accuse me of lying about the conservative movement against the President's fiscal policies, I had to waste an immeasurable amount of time and keystrokes simply showing that in the case of this posting, OttL is indeed, an "arrogant" fraud.

And to take my honesty one step further, I simply can't answer everything else in OttLs post. This answer, required to defend my honesty and integrity, has already taken far too much of your time. I know there are other things in there, and perhaps he will be "arrogantly" angry that I haven't responded to them, but it appears that we're just about out of keystrokes here, and have to be trying your patience by now. I hope you'll forgive us this indiscretion, and perhaps we can all convince OttL to be a bit more polite, do a little research and stick to the facts from now on.

In closing let me say that personally, I'm surprised. We finally had an agreement between a conservative and a liberal about the President's unsound fiscal policy, and instead of moving forward with that, and seeing if we could talk solution, and really build consensus on the rare occasion on which we agree, he chose to attack, and did it with lies backed by an inexcusable lack of simple research. (Heavy sigh.) And all this in his post about "bipartisanship." Well, let's hope for better behavior in the future, shall we? Don't be too harsh on him. We'll house train the liberal yet.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

True Bipartisanship: Blame the Other Guy

For those of you who have been following On the Mark (OtM) and my recent discussions, you're probably beginning to see some patterns. I know I am. Pattern #1 is that I'm an arrogant bastard. Get used to it. The only reason I draw so much satisfaction from it is that it pisses those of you who disagree with me off. I realized a long time ago that I'm not changing anyone's mind, regardless of how excellent my arguments and the supporting evidence are. If someone aside from OtM, and on occasion, Mountain Man, would actually post something of substance, we might actually have a discussion here.

Pattern #2 is that both times (see our previous discussion on Social Security and the current one about the Federal Budget Deficit) I have built an argument indicting conservatives for their idol worship of our President, OtM and several others have responded that all the Democrats want to do is tear the President down and insult his policies. Democrats never have anything productive to contribute, except criticism.

Recall during our Social Security discussion, however, that after OtM's tirade about how little Democrats had contributed to solutions for the Social Security system and bipartisan dialogue in Congress, I gave multiple actual examples of bills that had been introduced either by Democrats and Republicans or Democrats alone, that were fundamentally different than the President's plan. The conservative response: Nill. If you don't believe me, go back and read it for yourself. No discussion of the actual proposals, just outright ignoring.

The Federal Budget deficit is really no different. All one has to do is go to
The US Congress website and enter "budget" as a search term under legislation. Here are a couple examples of numerous bipartisan and Democratic solutions to the growing problem of the Federal Budget Deficit:
-Rush Holt (D - New Jersey)
HR 116 Social Security and Medicare Lock-Box Act of 2005. Addresses Social Security and budget concerns.
- Fiscal Responsibility for a Sound Future Act
S 19:: (14 Bipartisan Sponsors)

This article shows that a bipartisan group of 55 Senators is opposed to key provisions of Bush's budget. Once again, OtM wants you to believe the Democrats are part of the problem, not the solution, but he doesn't want to discuss the Democratic or even bipartisan proposals that are out there. He just wants to pretend, as he did during our Social Security discussion, that the Democrats have nothing constructive to add. This is obviously not the case.

OtM goes on the summarize unified budgetary theory, the process of putting all your bills together to create imaginary surpluses. The excellent point he makes here is that ALL administrations do this. This makes comparison's between Clinton's "surplus" and Bush's current budget meaningful. Despite the fact that Clinton's "surplus" may have been a numbers game, the Bush Administration can't even attempt to hide these sorts of numbers:

"the Congressional Budget Office (
news - web sites) estimated Friday that Bush's policies as outlined in his 2006 budget would add $1.6 trillion to the federal deficit over the next 10 years." (source)

My point was simply that Clinton, love him or loathe him, obviously did a much better job restraining spending than Bush has. Clinton may not have had $1 in actual surplus during his presidency, but I can tell you that the CBO never projected adding $1.6 trillion to the deficit during his time as President.

OtM goes on to explain that the right, particularly bloggers and those in the right-wing media, are critical of Bush's spending. I was curious what they were saying, so I clicked on EVERY link on the right margin of this website. Did I find a single blog, website, news organization that wrote something critical of the President's spending? No, and OtM has done an excellent job of getting a good sample of excellent conservative websites over there.

How about
Rush Limbaugh? Powerline Blog? Hugh Hewitt? Michael Savage? Democracy parties? Yes. Hillary Clinton burning in Effigy? You better believe it. Support the Troops Banners? Hundreds. Criticism of President Bush's spending? Like Santa Claus, Bigfoot, and Jimmy Hoffa's corpse, there is no evidence to support its existence. The mainstream conservative outrage that OtM cites remains to be seen.

I'm certain that there are conservatives out there who, like OtM and Mountain Man, are calling the President out on this, but it's simply not happening in the established conservative media, including blogs. It's not even happening in the traditionally liberal MSM.

Once again, I would be happy to discuss the merits and limitations of Democratic or Bipartisan solutions to budgetary matters, particularly compared to the President's budget. Instead, we've digressed into baseless partisan bickering. The Democrats are proposing solutions, both alone and with Republicans, but denying their existence does little to further discussion on the issue.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Answer on the Budget - I Agree - From a "Caring Conservative" - When Will Democrats Propose an Alternative, to Anything?

Once again OttL makes himself feel good (along with all Liberals) by painting himself as far too "caring and intelligent" to be a "conservative." Productive discourse from the left? No. But I've come to expect nothing more. Now that we have the obligatory and unproductive generalizations out of the way, let's talk reality.

OttL and I completely agree on the absolute lack of fiscal conservatism shown by this administration. It is horrifying to witness the bloated deficit, especially when you understand the long term implications. But OttL attempting to paint the Democrats as the fiscal conservatives of this country is absolutely ludicrous, and totally unsupported by the facts.

The reality is, there NEVER was any budget "surplus." The "surplus" was created through false manipulation and semantics. Here is an excellent example (from the Washington Post in Feb. 1998) of the falsehoods peddled during the Clinton years:

It's easy to determine the truth. All one needs to do is determine how much more one spends than is earned in a year, as every family does. Accordingly, one should ask: Does the president's budget receive more than it will spend, or does it spend more than it receives? Once again, as it has for the past 30 years, the government will spend more. In fact, the president's budget projects more spending than income each year for the next five years. Instead of surpluses "as far as the eye can see," deficits will be the order of the day -- Washington will continue to borrow and spend.

While the president talks about reserving 100 percent of every surplus, his budget borrows the pension fund surpluses in order to report a budget surplus. These pension funds are then spent on food stamps or foreign aid or some program other than Social Security. The same is true of the gasoline tax, which is intended for highways. In reality, the deficit is not eliminated; the deficit is merely moved from the general fund into the Social Security trust fund or the highway trust fund.

This gimmick is called "unified budgeting" with a "unified" deficit or surplus. It's a fraud. With the present surplus fever, the people think the government is finally on a pay-as-you-go basis. But in reality, the politicians continue to spend, running huge deficits in the trust funds. The following trust funds are in deficit for the following amounts as of FY 1999: Social Security, $845 billion; Medicare $148 billion; Military Retirement, $140 billion; Civilian Retirement, $490 billion; Unemployment Compensation, $81 billion; Highways, $35 billion; Airports, $15 billion; Railroad Retirement, $21 billion, and all others, $58 billion.

One can see that instead of making the airports safe with modern radar, we have spent $7 billion of airport travelers' money on everything but airports. No wonder the highways are crumbling, the bridges falling. We have spent $22 billion of the gas tax on everything but highways and bridges.

At the beginning of the fiscal year we owed the Social Security trust fund $631 billion, and are scheduled to owe $732 billion by the end of September this year, and under President Clinton's "unified" budget, we will owe Social Security $845 billion. As he loots another $113 billion from the Social Security trust funds, the president cries, "Save Social Security first." Obviously, the first way to save Social Security is to stop looting it." (link)

So as you can see, the budget "surplus" during the Clinton years was all a big lie. To be fair, Presidents have done this for a long, long time. And while he initiated many new sorts of malfeasance in office (including oral sex in the Oval office, and a conviction and Arkansas disbarment for perjury), Clinton can't take credit for this particluar shell game.

Here's the major difference, not between the parties, but between the constituenties. Unfortunately, the parties are very similar in this regard. Their respective constituencies are not. Current day, grass roots conservatives are frothing at the President's lack of fiscal restraint. You will find it in the blogs, in the news, and even within the political establishment. People are quite simply pissed off at the President's lack of fiscal conservatism.

Am I really saying that Republicans at large aren't a bunch of mindless, numb, Rush Limbaugh ditto heads. Nope. I'm not saying that at all. Why? Because if you bother to listen to Rush Limbaugh, Michael Savage, Hugh Hewitt, or any other of the plethora of conservative talking heads out there, they are ALL attacking the President on this issue. So the majority of the conservative constituency is not happy about this. Maybe they aren't mindless, numb ditto heads, but they are following the lead of the talking heads on this one.

So, when Democrats flail, where is the Democratic constituency? Where is the outrage when the "leaders" of the Democratic party fail to put forth, or support alternatives to the President's plan for Social Security reform. I'll concede Ottl's point in a previous post that some powerless Democratic Senators have proposed alternatives (in part), but not one has been so much as even mentioned by the Democratic leadership in a press conference, let alone championed as an alternative plan. In fact, the Democrats are in all out attack and defeat mode instead of championing any alternative ideas. But that is standard fare for the Democrats. They have become the party of "no." "No" to everything proposed by Republicans. No to almost everyone nominated by Republicans. And most importantly, "no" to coming up with any full fledged policy proposals of their own.

When Democrats put forth no policy alternatives to the President's State of the Union address, where is the outspoken constituency, demanding that their party come up with legitimate, concrete alternatives? Find them for me. Find the blogs, websites, or newspapers articles demanding that the Democrats actually "do" something other than whine. Find me the rumblings of the masses expressing their discontent with anything Democratic. Such criticism doesn't exist on any sort of comparable scale within the party's constituency at large.

Perhaps the Democratic failure to propose alternative budgets, solutions to the Social Security debacle, or to our current foreign policy simply doesn't concern the Democrat's constituency at large. I hope this isn't correct, because the Democratic party is due for some serious criticism and reformation by the folks it claims to represent. Such a reform could challenge the Republicans. And as I've expressed over and over, such a challenge is healthy for our country. The current Democratic lack of ideas is not.

The Democratic party needs the same sort of criticism from "real" Democrats, that this Administration is dealing with from their conservative base regarding all matters fiscal. The conservative base is demanding accountability from it's leaders. When will the liberal base demand the same of theirs?

George W. Bush: Fiscal Conservative as Dick Cheney: Kind, Lovable Young Man

If I were conservative, which I am far too caring and intelligent to be, I would be downright flabbergasted with the spending going on in the Bush Administration. The Congressional Budget office is a good place to start, if you want to talk about the President's budget and what the impact will be in the coming years. The CBO is a great source of information because unlike the Administration's budget estimates, they're non-partisan and excellent at math. If you find the CBO report too ambiguous or boring, check out this article, in which analysts determine that the President's budget proposals will continue to cause ballooning deficits.

What's particularly sickening about the current budget situation is that under Clinton, the budget was balanced and there was actually a multi-billion dollar surplus. Weren't we liberals supposed to be the ones who lacked fiscal responsibility? Empirical evidence is making us look pretty good when it comes to spending and containing the deficit.

Why should we care about the deficit? Deficits are bad, not just because Republicans claimed to be against big government and the spending that comes along with it, but because they can have significant negative effects on the economy in the long term. Fed Chairman Allan Greenspan has even been quoted as saying that budget deficits pose a long-term threat to the stability of our economy. It looks like the economic uncertainty of supply side economics continues, as it did during the Reagan Administration.

What do all you fiscal conservatives who support the President have to say for yourselves?

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Surprise! Republican Egocentrism: Bush's Social Security Reform Proposal Not the Only Plan on the Table!

On the Mark got so carried away in his dream for bipartisanship, that he forgot the first step in being bipartisan: look at what the other side has proposed. On the Mark claims that the Democrats are just tearing the President's reform plan down, without suggesting an alternative. If you look at the bills that have been filed in the actual Congress, you get a much different picture than the one On the Mark has painted for you.

On the Mark and the conservative party loyalists don't want you to know that, in fact, Democrats and Republicans have made several proposed plans that differ significantly from the President's plan. You can view all of the comprehensive Social Security reform proposals before Congress here, Democratic and Republican, including the bipartisan HR 1793 21st Century Retirement Act, sponsored in the House by Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) and Rep. Charles Stenholm (D-TX) and the aptly named S. 1383 Bipartisan Social Security Reform Act, sponsored by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Sen. John Breaux (D-LA). The Democrats also have two additional comprehensive reform plans that are on the table that are not bipartisan.

I guess that means that the Democrats aren't just whining and crying about the President's plan. They're working with Republicans to propose other solutions because like On the Mark (OtM), they have reservations about the President's plan for reforms. And they absolutely should. If you want to debate the advantages and limitations of the proposals that have been suggested, I'm game. However, I will not stand around and let you say that the Democrats haven't tried to be a constructive part of what is definitely a bipartisan process.

If the President is so willing to work with Democrats as OtM suggesting in his rebuttal, why hasn't the President mentioned the Democratic proposals publicly as well? Why hasn't he attempted to work on a compromise? Why is he still only promoting his own plan which includes private accounts and includes no mandates for benefits provided to orphaned children and the disabled?

OtM says that the jury is still out on private accounts. Actually, if you look at compelling evidence from seven states in the US that have already tried private accounts, they have empirically been shown to be grossly ineffective compared to traditional Social Security. Take my current state of residence, Nebraska, as an example:

"But when Nebraska's state and county workers were given do-it-yourself accounts, they made so many investment errors that they ended up making less than colleagues with fixed-benefit pensions — and less than what analysts have said is needed for old age. Their poor performance led the Nebraska Legislature two years ago to junk the accounts for new employees."

"If people have private accounts in Social Security and they're left to make the decisions themselves, the results likely will not be positive," said Anna Sullivan, executive director of the Nebraska Public Employees Retirement Systems, which replaced its private account system with a centrally managed plan in 2003.

That's a pretty powerful statement coming from a state official in Nebraska, where President Bush could have run with David Duke and still carried the state. The fact is that while private accounts would benefit rich, educated people, who understand how to weigh the risks of investing, the vast majority of the American public would not fare well, as Nebraska and a number of other states have demonstrated empirically. Not only do you have to worry about the costs, as Greenspan has mentioned, but also the increased risks of economic volatility when people's retirement benefits are a stake.

To review, the Democrats and Republicans in Congress have been cooperating to propose viable alternatives to the President's plan. I would much rather discuss the merits and limitations of proposals than have OtM mislead you into thinking that we liberals are just complaining. The President's plan is terrible to be sure, but his proposal is not the only one on the table, as OtM and most of the conservative establishment would like you to think.

The President wants you to believe that his plan is our only hope to save an ailing program. But as the polls I listed in my original post on this topic indicate, the American people are not fools. Additionally, private accounts have been empirically shown to be an abysmal failure for the vast majority of participants. Liberals and conservatives alike should be looking at what other options we have, because the President's plan is certainly losing steam across the country and in Congress. The issue of Social Security will be a true test of the bipartisanship in the Republican party, since Republican cooperation is required given the current party configuration in Congress.

Social Security - Rebuttal - Sort Of - The Democrats are Devoid of Ideas

For once it appears that OttL and I might actually agree upon something. I too wonder at the wisdom of this President spending his political capital on the reform of a system that won't really even show it's first signs of being broke until 2042. I really don't have an answer for "why Social Security now?" There are surely programs which are in more desperate straits, such as Medicare.

As for private accounts, I'm not sure the jury is back on that one. For some reason the U.S. Congress has such accounts for themselves. And Alan Greenspan has backed such accounts, though definitely with reservations regarding the costs of establishing them. So, I'll reserve judgment on whether that is part of a prudent plan.

Finally, and most importantly, OttL and most other liberals agree that the program needs a fix. Unfortunately, the Democrats are once again the party of the "empty attack" and devoid of real solutions to real problems. Conservatives understand that simply attacking the proposals of Democrats doesn't lead to a stronger country, or better governance. If they don't like what the Democrats propose, they are notorious for coming up with proposals of their own. Having a clearly stated and easily articulated agenda is what has brought Republicans to power. The Democrats need to get their own.

I am a fervent believer in a strong two party system. And while I am absolutely a Republican and a conservative, I sincerely wish to see a strong and vibrant Democratic Party challenging the Republicans with concrete ideas and proposals that reflect their core beliefs. Such challenges will allow real plans to be debated in the marketplace of ideas, which is good for all. However, by all accounts, the Democratic party is currently struggling to determine if it even has "core beliefs."

Throughout this discussion, while acknowledging that there is a problem, the Democrats have put forth no plan of their own on Social Security. President Bush has repeatedly asked the Democrats to put a plan on the table and indicated he's willing to talk. And to the horror of many conservatives, Bush has even indicated a willingness to raise the ceiling above the current $90K in annual income upon which people pay Social Security taxes. Contrary to his promises to his fiscally conservative base, this would constitute a tax hike. But he's willing to talk about it. Which you think would please the Democrats immensely if they were genuinely interested in compromise, bipartisanship and fixing the system. Yet Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid of Nevada said his party would be attacked for advocating tax increases if it embraced the idea. "We're not going to fall for that," he said. (link)

This is the ultimate in absurdity. The Democratic Party has said repeatedly that we should look at raising taxes to fix the system. Yet when the President says, contrary to his own political interests, he's actually willing to look at it, Reid says, "We're not going to fall for that." What sort of insane Orwellian double-speak is that?

This country needs genuine interest in a bipartisan fix for the Social Security problem. Right now the only thing the Democrats have shown is that they are excellent naysayers. Well, for the health of the country, and the health of the Democratic Party, it's time they stepped up to the table, presented their own plan, and engaged in some real discussion.

Bush's Social Security Reforms Out of Step with American Public

"When President Bush said during the 2000 Presidential campaign that he wouldn't participate in nation building, I didn't know he was talking about his own country." - Al Franken

The more we learn about the President's and other Republicans' plans to restructure Social Security, the scarier the situation becomes. A poll conducted this week, indicates that a majority of the American people believe that allowing citizens to invest their Social Security taxes in private accounts is "a bad idea." It's tragic that the only domestic issue the President has had on the agenda for his entire presidency is one that will likely put the average American in poverty for retirement.

No one doubts that Social Security needs to be reconsidered. Anyone who can do basic math can tell you that we're headed for a time, because our grandparents were completely horny after World War II, where there will be substantially more retirees drawing from the system than workers paying in. Most realistic estimates indicate that Social Security will not be able to pay full benefits by 2042.

The problem with the President's plan, or anyone's plan who wants to divert Social Security taxes into private accounts, is that it's ill conceived. Diverting money away from Social Security will speed up the demise of the program significantly. Under many of the reform plans under consideration, anyone over 55 would still be supported by Social Security as it exists today. Bush has not suggested how the program would be solvent to support these retirees or orphaned children and the disabled, who also receive benefits through the Social Security program.

Even Bush's closest allies, like Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA), Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee are in doubt (source):

"Maybe we ought to focus on the solvency and bring people to the table just over what do you do for the solvency for the next 75 years," Grassley, R-Iowa, said Wednesday. Grassley said "personal accounts don't have a lot to do with solvency," a distinction that Bush glosses over but that his advisers concede."

He goes on to suggest a more realistic fix to the problem:

"The program's problems could be fixed, he suggested, with a combination of benefit cuts and tax increases."

A GOP leader in the Senate conceding that the President's plan does little to address the solvency of the Social Security program? It's not just the Democrats on Capitol Hill who are having doubts in the President's plan these days.

Republicans in Congress realize that because of their strong numbers in the House and the Senate, they won't be able to pin policy failures on the Democrats, as both parties have a tendency to do in more politically balanced Congressional Delegations.

The number of domestic issues that need to be addressed in this country is staggering. Health care, education, homeland security, energy, and environment are just a few of the areas that should have been addressed during the Clinton administration. But, isn't Bush supposed to be a better President than Clinton? I won't make excuses for Clinton, but President Bush has the opportunity to prove me and the rest of the critics out there wrong by addressing even a few of these pressing issues. We know from his first term that he's not afraid to spend money.

Instead, he has chosen to spend his "political capital" and the tax payers actual financial capital to wreck our Social Security program, and even GOP loyalists are questioning if the President's would do anything to help Social Security. Social Security needs to be fixed, but the President's plan brings us no closer to a solution.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Standards of Evidence - Rebuttal

OttL accuses me of not citing sources in the Lebanese press. I have to admit. He's right on this. The reality is that I never said that I was, and never intended to. I didn't quote the Iraqi press during the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. either. In fact, I generally don't quote the press of any country that gets violently and physically attacked for telling the truth. Never have, and never will. I guess conservatives just have higher standards for "journalism" than that. I don't know what else to say on that count.

Secondly, OttL says that we shouldn't trust the words of the leader of the Lebanese intifada, Walid Jumblatt. He says that because Jumblatt has been such a consistent hater of the U.S. in the past, we shouldn't trust his words now. I believe that is PRECISELY the reason that we should listen to his words. He's not one to say anything even remotely positive about the U.S. And you'll note from his words...he's still consistent in that. No compliments to the U.S., a simple acknowledgement of the fact that the Lebanese intifada is a natural outgrowth of the Lebanese people hearing and seeing what has happened in Iraq. Seeing the Iraqis vote has made a huge difference in entire the region.

Do the Lebanese people know about or understand the "Bush Doctrine?" OttL thinks not, and on this point I agree. The majority of them, not being exposed to a free media, have probably never heard of the "Bush Doctrine." As Walid Jumblatt indicated, they are simply looking to their near neighbors over in Iraq, see and hear that 8 million voted, and say, "why not us?" I am not alone in this analysis. It's all across all forms of media, from liberal to conservative, from the U.K. to the U.S. If OttL wants to stand alone in the hinterlands of liberal thought, with arms crossed and a sour look on his face, reassuring himself that our invasion of Iraq can't possibly be producing the desired results in the region, and refusing to see what the entire world is now beginning to see, so be it. I cannot remove the liberal blinders. And in the end, reality will triumph anyway.

OttL demanded a credible source of information. I must admit, he has me stumped. I can provide no more credible source than the man leading the intifada himself, Walid Jumblatt, who speaks against his own past when he says that the uprising was made possible by the U.S. invasion. That source has been vetted and confirmed by the liberal mainstream media (starting with the Washington Post), many of whom are now chiming in to say the "Bush Doctrine" may actually be working. I suggest that Ottl open his eyes and take a look at what the rest of the world apparently finds self evident.

Standards of Evidence

In the process of disregarding a good portion of my posting, On the Mark created a dangerous double standard that is going to make it difficult to have any discussion about this issue. I'm sure many of you will be disappointed to learn that I am going to try anyway.

On the Mark has conceded that his only source of information about the Bush Doctrine's impact on Lebanon is Walid Jumblatt, a Lebanese Political leader. But, can we really trust what this guy says? Before you answer that question, you should read this. On the Mark's sole source of information has also been quoted as saying that the US invented Osama Bin Laden to launch a war against Arab Nations. He's also a racist and anti-Semite. Jumblatt's credibility and sudden reversal of opinion are highly suspicious. And so far, Jumblatt's comments in the Washington Post editorial are the only piece of evidence that On the Mark has for the Bush Doctrine's impact on Lebanon. Jumblatt's opinions might not be so suspicious, if they weren't required to stand on their own, with no additional corroboration.

On the Mark goes on to say that my sources weren't actually Lebanese media anyway, but neither were any of his. Most of the bloggers in Lebanon that he cited in his original posting mentioned nothing about the Bush Doctrine. The few that did, cited the same Washington Post editorial that we've been subjected to consistently. My point stands that if the Bush Doctrine is so influential, why aren't we reading about it anywhere except the Op Ed page of the Washington Post from a guy who is obviously not credible?

On the Mark contradicts himself in the process of trying to refute my Lebanese news sources. He claims that on one hand, the government controls the media and what the Lebanese people have access to in terms of information, but his entire argument that the Bush Administration's policies have influenced the people of Lebanon to rise up and overthrow the government would require that the Lebanese people have some knowledge of the Bush Doctrine. Wouldn't you have to have knowledge of something to be inspired by it? He can't have it both ways.

Except for the incredibly educated people, most Lebanese wouldn't have access to the Washington Post Editorial in Arabic or English. Additionally, in the event that the Lebanese people did have widespread access to the only media source in the entire world that says anything about the Bush Doctrine's impact in Lebanon, it highly unlikely that most Lebanese people, as I cited yesterday, have a very high opinion of the US foreign policy anyway.

The fact remains that 99.9% of the articles that you read in any media outlet in any country will tell you that the people of Lebanon are rising up because of the assassination of Al-Hariri. I'm not being unreasonable here. I simply want a source of credible information that describes the Bush Administration's impact on the situation in Lebanon. Given the widespread coverage of the issue, it shouldn't be this difficult.

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