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Looking For Republican Moderates Like Looking For Bigfoot

There has been a lot of comment on the small to non-existent number of Republicans who voted in favor of the stimulus bill.  No Republicans supported the bill in the House and only three in the Senate. My own take has been that most of these Republicans just don’t  favor a large role, or any role, for government in the economy. If they vote yes on this they are pretty much giving up the farm.

Also, how can we expect so-called Republican  moderates to vote for the bill when so many have been targeted and defeated in the last two election cycles?  There are hardly any of these people left. In New England, other places in the northeast, Maryland,and the upper midwest, less conservative Republicans in the House have been knocked out  by Democrats. These moderates took a beating in both 2006 and 2008.

They were targeted because they served in areas where Democrats felt they could win. To the extent that these Republicans remain, what’s to be gained by voting yes on the stimulus? They will still be targeted. Senator Arlen Specter will not get a free ride from Democrats if he runs for reelection in Pennsylvania in 2010.

In looking for Republican votes for the stimulus, we’re looking for people who for the most part no longer in Congress. They are no longer in Congress because Democrats knocked them out of Congress. You’d have a better chance of finding Bigfoot. (Actual Bigfoot photo above.)

February 13, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , | 1 Comment

Structural Causes Of Longterm Poverty

The most recent issue of Political Science Quarterly has an article by professor and author William Julius Wilson which discusses why many people in the United States are trapped in longterm poverty.  The title of the article is “The Political and Economic Forces Shaping Concentrated Poverty.”

(The full article is online for free. Though other material in PSQ is not for free. This is just how it should be. The people at PSQ need to earn a living  just like you and I. Nothing is  “free.” Somewhere along the line is a cost. I bought a copy of the magazine because I want to help keep the folks at PSQ in business.) 

There is nothing groundbreaking in the piece, but it discusses facts that can never be mentioned enough. Many of  the reasons people are poor are built into the fabric of society and are not the fault of  the people in poverty.    

Consider the great majority of the people who have lost jobs in the current downturn. We don’t blame these people for what has happened because of our deep recession. It’s not so much of a leap to also understand there are many reasons why people are poor that have nothing to with lack of effort or an unwillingness to work.

Here are some of the issues cited by Dr. Wilson in his report—

* Federal housing polices going back to the New Deal years that excluded certain neighborhoods from getting a government assisted mortgage. These limits most often impacted black people.

* The fact that many poor people simply cannot afford a car to get to where the jobs are. (Or where the jobs were as the case may be today.)

* Cities and states building highways that isolated poor neighborhoods. Mr. Wilson mentions the first Mayor Daley of Chicago as a leading culprit in this respect. 

* Cuts in the beginning in the Reagan years, and extending up to the G.W. Bush administration, to government programs that had in the past helped the poor.

* Use of deed restrictions and zoning laws to keep poor people out of certain communities and, in that way, limiting access to “moving up” in society.

* The “jobless recovery” after the 2001 recession that did little to help the most poor.

It should be noted here that the architects of the New Deal and Mayor Daley were Democrats. Some of the hope that comes with Mr. Obama, comes from the fact that at the national level the more hardcore racists and nuts have been fully pushed over into the Republican side of the aisle. We no longer have to placate these people to such a degree.  

Though the toughness of the negotiations on the recently passed stimulus bill is a caution against that hope. The hard-hearted nutballs never retreat in full.  

Here are a number of statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau that discuss poverty in the United States.

Here is information on poverty in America from the Gerald R. Ford School of Government at the University of Michigan. It is asserted here that 12.5% of Americans were poor in 2007. That number must be higher today.

Life is hard and people are often marked from birth when it comes to who will be successful or not. This not mean that people don’t rise out of poverty to do well, or that the children of the affluent don’t sometimes amount to nothing, but dumb luck plays a big part in who does well or not.

Dumb luck, and our ongoing willingness to accept the fact that millions of our fellow Americans will likely never be able to enjoy the full range of opportunity in our society. These are some of the biggest problems we face in addressing chronic poverty in the United States.

February 12, 2009 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , | 2 Comments

It Does Not Make Sense For Republicans To Give Away Core Beliefs

Republicans in Congress have little reason to negotiate in the current stimulus debate. The way the stimulus bill uses large sums of taxpayer dollars to fund new programs and expand the role of government is directly against the core principles of the Republican Party. Republicans may well be right to guess that the provision of health care benefits to unemployed people that is part of the House version of the bill, is a pathway to government-sponsored universal care. This is not something Republicans are eager to see. 

That the Republican view of limited government and tax cuts for the rich has been proven wrong by our current economic mess is not the point. This is so even if the good of the nation should come before failed ideology. Reduced to an ineffective minority in the House, and barely holding on to 40 seats in the Senate, Republicans have few options. They can offer opposition, or they can melt away completely during the Obama years by going along with the proposals of the White House and the Congressional majority.

What is the point of being a Republican if you give away your core beliefs? Republicans look back to Franklin Roosevelt’s Presidency and see that hard as they try, and even given a number of successful attacks, they still can’t undo the New Deal after 75 years. Many aspects of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society remain in place after 40 years.  Why would they back another wave of government expansion?

This is the main reason why President Obama can’t make much bipartisan headway on the stimulus bill. He’s asking Republicans to give away the farm for little in return. Republicans can’t “out-government” Democrats.  Why would they even try? I’m sure Republicans in Congress and their core voters do not feel any need for a second Democratic Party.

Maybe it serves President Obama’s political intrests to reach out to Republicans. It’s possible that as we go along he may be able to pick off a few Senate Republicans for his initiatives. If this turns out to be the case than maybe the nation as a whole will gain. 

But what we can’t have is wasting this fleeting period of Democratic Party ascendancy during a time of economic crisis in order to try and reach people who can’t be reached. Now is the time for an aggressive push to expand the role of government in our economic life, and to move towards universal health care. 

After years of economic and moral stagnation under the winner-take-all philosophies of Ronald Reagan, Newt Gingrich, George W. Bush and many others, we cannot blow this chance to help remake America as a more fair and just nation.

February 10, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Politics | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Listening To Joy Division While I Blog Makes My Posts More Angry

Sometimes I listen to music while I blog. Mostly I listen to stuff that is not much more than background music and offers little distraction.  

But sometimes I listen to a Joy Division (picture above) CD I own as I blog. It’s a live recording of  a concert in Paris in 1979. I like it a lot. Though I can only take it to a certain extent. It’s depressing and angry. That’s okay because I believe what Martin Luther King said about how the well-adjusted person in a sick society is the person who is really messed up.

(Please cick here for the best Martin Luther King Reading List on the web.)

(Please click here to watch Joy Division’s Love Will Tear Us Apart Video on You Tube.)

When I listen to Joy Division as I blog, my posts are more angry than normally so. I think that’s good because angry is a reasonable state to find yourself in.  

For example, a few minutes ago I had the U.S. Senate on my TV. I was watching Senators explain the stimulus compromise.  Majority Leader Reid called Susan Collins of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut to explain the compromise. It  made me sick. We win the election, and it still comes down to two Republicans, the most conservative Democrat, and a back-stabbing McCain supporter to broker the deal. It’s disgusting. When will this shit ever get better?

I had to turn the TV off and come and turn on Joy Division and write this post.  I don’t do any drugs and I’m not a big drinker, but I needed to be under the influence of something.  The Senate and the TV were sapping my life force and I needed relief.

Have I ever mentioned how off-putting I found much of the Democratic campaign here in Harris County, Texas last year?  I hinted at it in criticisms of David Minceburg’s terrible campaign for County Judge Executive. I’ve let the blog reading public down by not being  more forthcoming.  

Houston and Harris County is a mess of poverty and people wasting their lives because they are poor and have little chance at ever not being poor.  I’m not going to tell you I have the answer to longterm structural poverty. But I do know the answer will not be found in talking about traffic congestion relief and  restoring electricity more quickly after your every-so-often hurricane.

If you live in Houston bad traffic and hurricanes are part of the deal. What did you expect?

The County Democratic Party found it could raise money easily enough when it became apparent to big money donors that at least some Democrats were going to win in November. The task of voter registration was in large degree left to the primary campaigns of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. It seems clear enough that the coordinated campaign had what it felt it needed and saw little reason to dig deeper. 

They did not need to reach down to potential voters who rarely show up at the polls but who, if they voted, might well vote Democratic. And if you don’t need their votes, you don’t need to address their concerns.

Can you blame Hispanics for not voting in greater numbers in Harris County? I mean you can in the sense of why can’t they get their asses to the polls, and claim the political power that their hard work  and raw numbers around here merit? 

Yet in an another regard, nobody in the Democratic Party was really talking to Hispanics last year. Go find 100 Hispanic people on the street in Houston and Harris County, and ask them what the local Democratic Party has ever done for them. Maybe it has done a little bit for them. Maybe. But I bet those things have never been communicated effectively. You have to care about  people before you’ll effectively communicate with them.

Well…the CD is down to the last song and I should make my post. When I’m drunk I talk a lot and I say nice things that I really do think, but am too reserved to say in normal conversation. When under the influence of Joy Division, I get more angry and say things I should have said before.

February 7, 2009 Posted by | Houston, Martin & Malcolm, Music, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Mr. Obama Should Appeal To Non-Evil Coalition To Get To 60 Votes In Senate—Help For Unemployed Stripped From Stimulus

The Huffington Post is reporting that provisions helping  unemployed people maintain and acquire health insurance have been stripped from the Senate version of the stimulus bill.

From the report— ….law professor and health care author Timothy Jost noticed that the Senate had removed the House provision that would allow people 55 and over who are laid off to continue COBRA coverage at a subsidized rate until they’re 65 and eligible for Medicare. The House version also made folks who were laid off temporarily eligible for Medicaid; the Senate version strips that out, Jost found. Every one percent increase in unemployment throws more than a million people into the ranks of the uninsured.

It does not surprise me that Republicans want this taken out. (Or that maybe a few Democrats have also signed on with this idea.) I have no expectations of Republicans in Washington. Many are not decent people. I’m not interested in compromising with most of them. I’m not sure why our President wants to talk to them. Though I guess if Mr. Obama feels we should talk to Iran, a view I support, I suppose we can also talk to these persons as well.

If we can’t get health insurance for unemployed people in the middle of an economic disaster, when are we going to make progress on universal coverage? Are we just going to get nowhere on this issue for all time?

Since my Texas Senators are cold-hearted and do not represent me in any meaningful way, I called the office of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and asked that these protections for unemployed people be kept in the stimulus bill. Mr. Reid’s office can be reached at 202-224-3542. I figure since Mr. Reid is a national leader that any American can give him a call.

I think people who kick other people when they are down are evil.  

I also called the White House comment line at 202-456-1111. I said I hoped President Obama would make sure that health insurance for the unemployed would be part of the final bill. I also said I don’t understand why he is trying to compromise with bad people.  

With 58 Democrats in the Senate, plus Al Franken when he is finally seated, and with Senate Republicans who retain some humanity,  maybe there is a non-evil coalition in the Senate that can help get the President to 60 votes on the big issues.

It’s more complex when talking about rank-and-file voters. People are often a muddle of good and ill. But many of these elected Republicans in Washington are just plain and simple bad folks. They gather up all the rotten thoughts and ideas people have, and bring them to the front and center. They filter out any decent thoughts that voters have.

If we can’t work around these people now, when will we ever be able to do so?

February 5, 2009 Posted by | Barack Obama, Politics | , , , , , , | 2 Comments