Archive for February, 2009

27
Feb
09

What color are your shades?

I’ve listened to many reports on the Obama budget, but the one that seemed to sum it up for me pretty well was from the Newshour with Jim Lehrer. Judy Woodruff spoke with Peter Orszag and I will attach the transcript. I didn’t really hear anything that I had not heard before but it really seemed to make what this is all about click for me. It is about perspective. Much of the Republican chest beating that is going on is simple (and ugly) politics. Hopefully people will see it for what it is. There is something more than that though. Yes, there are sincere differences between how republicans (small “r”, not the party) and democrats (small “d”, not the party) think things should be structured. Great. That is why we have debate. It is unfortunate that the big “R’s” and big “D’s” have to get in the way so often.

Even more than that though, seems to be the difference in individual viewpoints. In the interview, I felt Orszag did a great job of answering some of the criticisms of the bill. (Of course I did, I agree with him.) He kept saying “Let me be clear” and “Again, let me be clear”. But, what for some is obvious, probably won’t be for many others. Woodruff asked him about “redistribution of wealth” using some hot buzz words. He said that it was not – but then explained it was greater shared responsibility. He made a good case for it, pointing out that a middle income family would get a $1,500 tax credit for a $10,000 interest payment where Bill Gates would get $3,500 credit for that same $10,000 payment. That inequity probably doesn’t seem fair to a lot of people (my guess would be that Gates would agree). Yet, for many that “shared responsibility” is “taking from the wealthy to give to the poor”. Later in the interview Woodruff says the budget makes a lot of assumptions and Orszag terms it instead “bold”. It is all in how you look at it and perhaps part of it is generational. “Those youngsters aren’t doing things like we did in the day.” Vs. “That just isn’t the way the world works anymore, Gramps.”

One of the more frustrating things for me in this report and in others is the criticism that the budget raises taxes in a recession. The budget does let the Bush tax cuts for the top 5% (those making over $250,000) expire in 2010, thus “raising” taxes in 2011. So, yes, there will be higher taxes on the top 5% – but not until 2011. All those out there bloviating on taxing and spending do a disservice by not giving the full picture. There is another divide – those that see only the cliff notes and those that want the full picture. While you can factually say that the budget would raise taxes and increase spending, it distorts what is really being proposed. One man’s spending is another man’s investment.

I like a lot of what I’ve seen in the budget. I appreciate the fact that the costs of the wars are included. The huge deficit is not just about the bailouts and stimulus, the deficit reflects the war costs that have not previously been included. We knew the previous administration was leaving us in a hole, they just never told us the truth about how deep it was. The budget reflects much of what Obama campaigned on and so it will probably resonate with those of us that liked what we heard on the campaign. Still, it is hard not to feel discouraged when you know it has a lot of political processes to go through. It sure would be nice if we could all take off our colored glasses, rose or otherwise, and just try to look at things as the really are.

 

judy-woodruff-peter-orszag

20
Feb
09

Let’s Get It On

I’ve been in a funk. It just seems all so overwhelming. Bank bailout. Financial crisis. Loan crisis. Auto bailout. Partisan politics. Afghanistan. The guy down the hall telling me he is rooting for Obama to succeed and shaking his head in an expression of doubt.

GM cutting the Saturn brand upset me, too. I loved my Saturn SC2. I drove it for 11 years and put over 200,000 miles on it. I never had any problems with it. It was “totaled” after I was rear ended. I gave it to my niece, she had the frame bent back into shape and drove it for two more years. I felt it was a good example of the US actually being able to make good cars. One of the major reasons I bought it way back in ’93 was that it was 96% American made. I didn’t’ trek to the Tennessee plant for their annual Saturn-fest, but I really loved that car. But, in the end, when I went to buy a new car, I went with the hybrid. There were no American options for that at the time – and really, there isn’t much in that department now. It just was one more example of how screwed up everything is.

Then yesterday I read an article in Newsweek about the Petro rulers. They all planned on oil staying at $100 a barrel and are struggling now that it has dropped. It gives Ahmadinejad, Putin and Chavez a reason to want to engage rather than just rage. It also made me think “Hey, things aren’t quite so bad here,” when I read that Russia’s market lost 75% of its value. But, I realized I must be getting over my doldrums last night while I was watching the cable news channels. I have a friend that swears everything can be an innuendo with the right intonation and a wink. So, “stimulus package” just started sounding funny to me. “Our stimulus package includes accommodations at the Swank Motel, a Barry White album and a bottle of Jose Cuervo.” Maybe Viagra will start advertising a bottle of the blue pills as “Your own personal Stimulus Package!” instead of the Viva Las Vegas remix. Hey, and maybe it’s not such a bad idea. Maybe we all need to just get it on and release some of those endorphins to get out our national funk. Who knows? Maybe if the Detroit leaders got a stimulus package (wink, nod) they could get out in front on that electric car thing.

14
Feb
09

I hate valentine’s day

For as long as I can remember, I have hated Valentine’s Day.  Go ahead, tell me I am just bitter that I didn’t get as many Valentine’s as the next girl.  Certainly, I was never the belle of the ball and do not deny that had an effect on my thinking.  Yet, sometimes things that are painful at the time, give you a deeper and richer experience and a clearer understanding.  Plus, my hatred of the holiday is not just the amount of candy hearts I was given.  The entire thing never made much sense to me.  First of all, the theme colors just grate on my nerves.  Pink and Red do not go together in my book and then you add lavender?  It is all just so saccharine.  Then you have the problem of being inclusive.  In elementary school we all made our little shoe boxes into mail boxes covered in glue and glitter.  Into those boxes we were each to put a valentine to every member of our class.  This of course is a very sweet thought, but doesn’t it take away all the meaning to be forced to give a card to someone?  I remember spending considerable time going through my box of little cards to find the one the “least nice” to give to Robby.  He was a jerk.  Why did I have to tell him “You’re a cutie, Valentine!”?  Finally, just the opposite of the problem of inclusion, is the problem with exclusion.  Sure we all had our box full of meaningless red, pink and purple cards, but some people actually got real valentines.  Hearts of candy.  Flowers.  Some people actually got “You’re a cutie, Valentine!” from someone who really meant it.  Even as kids we knew who meant it and who didn’t. 

 

Of course, that is the real heartbreak of the holiday – those that do not have someone to tell them that they are loved.  It is my main complaint with the holiday.  I know not everyone enjoys every holiday, but it seems that there is not one that is so hurtfully exclusive across the board.  Plus, it is just made up; (my cynical side has often called it Hallmark-Florist Day.)  I have long boycotted the day and have preached the inherent meanness of it.  What other holiday by its very nature tells half the people that they are loved and the other half they are not? 

 

My fanaticism regarding Valentine’s Day did not waver when I began seeing someone.  To the contrary, I made the point early on and convincingly and throughout our relationship and our subsequent marriage, he has granted me my request that we not honor this holiday.  That is not to say that he relented easily.  To the contrary, we have had more than one discussion about it, one of which was actually quite heated.  He contends that he loves me and wants to send me flowers like everyone else does – and that it makes him look bad when people ask him what he is going to do for Valentine’s Day and he says “Nothing.”  My reply is always tell them why I don’t want them – I consider it a chance to proselytize.

 

I will never go back on my word to not celebrate Valentine’s, however, I have developed a new understanding as of late.  First, I now have friends in the floral business.  They do have a major influx of business on the day and I am happy for them.  I also realize that they work three times as much for about half the profit.  Florist charge more for flowers on Valentine’s because they are charged more.  A lot more.  More to the point though, after a few years of marriage, it has become clear that there is a good chance that it wasn’t the greeting card and floral cartels that began the madness.  Perhaps, just perhaps, it was wives who came up with this idea.  Everyone wants to be treated like they are appreciated, like they are special.  Add to that the vast majority of husbands… well, let’s just say they would be happy to send their wives’ flowers if their wives would call the florist and order them.  Husbands need motivation.  They need one day that perhaps they can remember the date and that they will be reminded of in countless commercials in order to remember to say “I love you, you are special.”  To say, “Thanks for cleaning the house all the time and feeding me.” Or, to say “You’re a cutie, Valentine!”  Is the sentiment tarnished because you have to ask for it, remind them of it and practically beg for it?  Yes, but I guess it is better than nothing.

 

I will continue on in my quest against Valentine’s Day.  However, I do have a replacement.  Why don’t we all just try to remember to tell all of those around us that we love them, appreciate them and care for them on a regular basis?  Hallmark can still run their ads – they could run them all year. 

11
Feb
09

GOP Taliban

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "GOP Taliban", posted with vodpod

10
Feb
09

Rachel points out the non-truth

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about "Rachel points out the non-truth", posted with vodpod

10
Feb
09

Are you scared yet?

I saw this chart last night showing job losses over time in the last two recessions and our current one. (Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.)

That giant sucking sound? That’s the economy, stupid.

Obama tried to rouse the troops yesterday and the Senate should be passing the stimulus soon. Then it will be in committee. We don’t have time for them to dither too long.

job-loss

09
Feb
09

Letter to my Senators

Just stop. Stop the obstruction and the obfuscation.

Vote for the stimulus plan – or at least stop standing in the way.

You all have already managed to make a mess of it and you have gotten more tax cuts in the bill. So, just let it pass. I understand that you will not vote for it. You can’t because of the R in front of your name. There are two or three that are willing to cast their ballots for the bill from your side and that is all that is needed.

This is not how this should have happened. It should not have come down to the basest form of politics. This is not really about a philosophical difference over tax cuts vs. spending. It is about who will be able to say come campaign season “I didn’t vote for the bill”. It’s a pretty shrewd move. You guys on the right always seem so much better at this stuff than the Democrats. The economy is not going to recover in two years. I think everyone knows that. This is a long haul situation and the deficit is going to go up and things are still not going to be rosy for the mid-term elections. It really is your only shot to win back some seats, isn’t it? But, seriously, how short-sighted can you be? It is the country that is in peril, not your party. If the country goes down in flames because of this economic crisis, what good does it do you to win an election?

So, you all have done your grandstanding. You should have enough sound bites for the mid-terms by now. So, it is time to let it go. I can only hope that at least a majority of people see it for what it is.

And please, stop all this non-sense about how tax cuts helped the economy recover after 9/11. The tax cuts were in place before 9/11. The economy didn’t tank overnight and it didn’t all happen on GWB’s watch, but the tax cuts have done nothing but help the top 1% get richer – and that really helps no one. All the billions we have spent on an ill-advised war haven’t helped matter either.

Please. Just think about what is best for the country.