Friday, November 1, 2013

Clinton's approval drops among key demographics

It's two and a half years out from the 2016 Presidential primary, but that won't stop polling firms from tracking approval/disapproval ratings. This one caught my eye mainly due to the the key demographic that happen to be turning away from the heir-apparent/shoo-in for the Democratic candidate for President.
Hillary Clinton’s public image has slumped in recent months, with younger voters, Democrats and independents taking a less enthusiastic view of her, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows.

Overall, 46% registered a positive view of the ex-secretary of state, compared to 33% who expressed a negative opinion. As recently as April, 56% saw Mrs. Clinton in a positive light.

While this is extremely early in the process, I think it bodes well for the future. I want a primary where one can vote for the candidate you prefer, rather than just accepting an annointed leader because you have no choice in who gets the nod.

The candidate with the most support from party members should win, and not someone with a mantle of inevitability. If Hillary is the best of the lot, then she'll win the primary. If not, the party get someone that their members support.

As long as there is competition and a chance for party members to choose candidates, I'll be happy with the result.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Why worry?

In 1992, the GOP lost seats due shutting down the government. Today, the majority of the GOP are more worried about losing primaries to even more extreme candidates. As the following quote from this Politico article sums up:
"Most of the Republicans digging in have no reason to fear voters will ever punish them for it.  
The vast majority of GOP lawmakers are safely ensconced in districts that, based on the voter rolls, would never think of electing a Democrat. Their bigger worry is that someone even more conservative than they are — bankrolled by a cadre of uncompromising conservative groups — might challenge them in a primary.  
So from the standpoint of pure political survival, there’s every incentive to keep the government closed in what looks like a futile protest over Obamacare."
Don't think the debt ceiling debate in two weeks will be any different. I expect that to fail as well, and have even more severe results to the economy than shutting down the government.

In short, situation normal in D.C.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Deficit talk usually has a deficit of facts

Republicans like saying that Obama tripled the deficit, and Obama likes saying that he cut it in half.

The reality is that he did both. The chart the GOP typically uses ends at 2012, and conveniently ignores the recession and 2013.

The sources are listed below, but here are the raw numbers:
  • The deficit in fiscal year 1992 was $0.290 trillion. (Clinton's first year)
  • The surplus in fiscal year 2000 was $0.236 trillion. (Clinton's last year)
  • The deficit in fiscal year 2008 was $0.458 trillion. (Bush's last year)
  • The deficit in fiscal year 2009 was $1.412 trillion. (Obama's first year)
  • The deficit in fiscal year 2012 was $1.087 trillion.
  • This May, the Congressional Budget office has projected that the fiscal year 2013 deficit would shrink to $0.642 trillion.

So, Clinton reduced the deficit by $0.526 trillion (and left a surplus) by the time he left office
Bush increased the deficit by $0.694 trillion (cause: Iraq) by the time he left office
Obama increased the deficit by $0.629 trillion by the end of his first term (cause: bailout/stimulus)

If the CBO is accurate, then Obama will have increased the deficit by "only" $0.184 trillion after his first five years.

That, and that while Obama definitely tripled the deficit, but you'd have to be crazy to think that McCain wouldn't have done the same. Remember, 2008/2009 was ground zero in the great recession, and the government was spening cash madly in order to prevent the economy from falling into a depression. Since that crisis was averted, and long since the crazy days of the recession, the deficit has been steadily dropping again. By the end of his first term, Obama had increased the deficit less than Bush did in two terms. If the Congressional Budget Office is accurate, then in 2013 Obama will have only increased the deficit by $0.183 trillion. Hope springs eternal that by the end of Obama's term, we'll be back in surplus territory again.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Dysfunctional Congress. News at 11.

Everything is better when you speak behind a podium
It's interesting to see the Republican base as splintered and dysfunctional as the Democratic base. Most of my life there has been tension between the religious, fiscal, and libertarian wings of the GOP, but they used to do an excellent job of closing ranks and unifying. Alas, the disinformation age has been as kind to the GOP as it has to the Democrats.

Politico has a nice article breaking down the current situation plauging the Grand Old Party.
If one of the lessons of 2012 for the GOP leadership was to make peace with its rightward flank, so far, it’s not getting a passing grade when it comes to establishing a real sense of teamwork. Tea party lawmakers are still willing to buck party leaders, often at the behest of conservative groups, despite the fact that top aides to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) have organized a regular invite-only meeting of roughly a dozen advocates from entities like R Street Institute, Independent Women’s Forum, American Conservative Union and Americans for Tax Reform to encourage an open dialogue.

In part, leadership’s struggle to woo so-called wingers to its side remains an uphill fight because there is often a basic disagreement within the new conservative base about the best path forward and many tea partiers aren’t interested in the typical horse trading and compromise that typically have helped make deals on Capitol Hill.
The zealots in either party never tolerate compromise, but unfortunately for the rest of us, the way that pesky Constitution is written is that you have to compromise in order to get what you want. So if a political party can't even come to terms with itself as to what it wants, how on earth do you expect them to be able to negotiate with the other party? If your negotiators are constantly being accused as traitors, and prevented from reaching across the isle by the loudest and most reactionary, then it's impossible to compromise. Compromise is how things get done in D.C., and if you can't do that, then you are simply going to breed failure after failure. Those bold feel-good ideological stands simply translates into weakness, inefficency, and a complete failure in the ability to perform the most basic functions of government.

This country is largely shaped by the Legislative branch, as they set the rules and allocate the treasury. If they can't even argree to honor the bills that they have charged, it's not like the President or the Treasury Department can do anything about it.

As for the Legislative branch, the Senate has pulled itselves into pretzles to manage a handful of bi-partisan bills, but it's extremely difficult due to get nearly 2/3rds of the Senators to agree on anything. When it happens, it involves compromise, and thus a swift death in the House of Representatives.

Not exactly the most loved instutition in the U.S.
That leaves the House as the poster-child of dysfunctionality, as it is completely unable to compromise. The leaders of the House simply can't even control their own members to pass even basic legislation that would survive a veto, much less the Senate. For a number of these members, it's a badge of honor to throw a spanner in the works and let the zealots win. Since congressmen can't agree with themselves, they certainly can't negotiate with the other party to move things forward. Partisanship has largely taken the House hostage, and there is nothing in the forseeable future that will change that.

The Republicans believe the government is screwed up. Congratuations. If they could agree to it, they should pull out that old Mission Accomplished banner.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Why I think we should attack Syria

I don't support the U.S. being involved with regime change in Syria, joining a side to win that civil war, engaging in nation building, or even being remotely responsible for the fate of that nation. We aren't the ones who can determine the future of Syria, nor are we responsible for doing so, regardless of how that civil war plays out. Those are the problems for the citizens of Syria, and not the United States.

That said, I believe there absolutely needs to be a harsh response to anyone utilizing chemical, biological, and nuclear weaponry. If we tolerate Assad using chemical weapons, we'll tolerate the next butcher doing the same. And the next one, and the next one.

To me, this is a significantly different situation than Iraq, where we invaded someone we accused of possessing weapons of mass destruction. In this case, we would be hitting someone who is actively using them right now. To me, that's a huge difference and is in the interest in our national security to put the ever living fear of God in any nation that would ever think to use weapons of mass destruction.

Sadly, we've seen that issuing sanctions, making UN resolutions, proposing talks & roundtables, moralizing, or waving our fingers at the combatants of this conflict has had absolutely no impact on Syria. Frankly, factions that are desperately fighting an existential conflict to survive don't care about resolutions or sanctions. The only penalty that Assad will ever feel is hitting his military assets, which he needs in order to survive this civil war with his head intact.

So, I'm fine with punishing Assad with cruise missile strikes, drone attacks, and extremely targeted surgical strikes based on intelligence assets we already have in Syria. We won't wipe out every WMD they posses, but we'll certainly have an impact on his military infrastructure and ability to win his civil war.

While I have some serious reservations when it comes us using special forces in Syria, I'd understand the need to keep that on the table. What I'm opposed to is the type of extensive combat/occupation forces that we always use when we engage in pointless nation building exercises. We should never be patrolling the streets of Damascus or trying to install our version of order over there.

In my opinion, the goal in hitting Assad's military assets shouldn't be done to "win the civil war", but to damage anyone who utilizes actual weapons of mass destruction. With or without the blessings of the UN (which will never materialize thanks to Russia or China), whatever happens to Syria in the long-term future, Assad should be made to regret ever having used weapons of mass destruction, and make future warmongers use their WMDs for saber rattling, and not for actual use on the battlefield.

I'm sure I'm in the minority when it comes to this opinion, but I felt it was something I should state out loud. As usual, YMMV.