Steny Hoyer has an idiot moment?

According to the New York Times, Steny Hoyer (Democratic majority leader from Maryland) was quoted as having said:

Today, Republicans blocked an extension of unemployment insurance for thousands of families who have lost jobs through no fault of their own.

The measure required a two-thirds majority to pass in the U. S. House of Representatives (290 of 435). The vote was 154 in favor, 258 against (23 absent or not voting). Assuming that all 180 Republicans were present and voted against the extension:

  • At least 78 Democrats (30% of the majority party) also voted against it.
  • At least 30% of the Representatives who voted against the bill were Democrats.

They were 136 votes short. Even if 70% of the Republicans had voted for the measure, it still would have lost by 10 votes.

If Hoyer did indeed make this statement, then I think he either can’t add or he thinks the rest of us are really stupid.


The Great American Debate-Out: Energy

We’re addicted to foreign oil. We’re addicted to oil from any source. We’re addicted to fossil fuels. When we break our addiction, we not only solve the energy problem, but we solve part of the deficit problem and part of the terrorism problem and part of the economy problem.

It’s your inalienable right to drive a gas-guzzling SUV. It is not your inalienable right to pay $1.22 a gallon for gas. It’s your inalienable right to use incandescent bulbs. It’s not your inalienable right to pay $0.02 per kilowatt hour for electricity.

The first step in solving any problem is to admit we have a problem. We need to cop to our fossil fuel addiction in order to break it. It’s hard to hear that, and hard to do that. But it’s our responsibility as Citizens of this Great Country.

Now I know some people are genuine in their belief that we need to “drill, baby drill!” But I ask you to consider this:

In 1966 a Mustang with a 200 V6 got 120 HP and 15 MPG. In 2010 a Mustang with a 227 V6 gets 305 HP and 31 MPG. One of the big reasons is “direct injection,” a certain type of fuel injection. This technology was invented in… 1925. And it was available on aircraft in 1940 and high-end production vehicles in 1955. But it’s been trickling down into general production only in the past 5 years. That’s 50 years of stagnation. Now what could possibly be the excuse for that?

Competition drives efficiency and innovation. When you don’t have competition, you don’t get efficiency or innovation. When you have industry leaders that “game the system,” instead of donating some Old-Fashioned, All-America Elbow Grease, what you get is junk.

Again government can do some, in the way of tax exceptions that motivate the right behavior. But let’s face it, this is again a place where we need our industry leaders to re-pledge their national allegiances. And if they won’t, again, let’s yank them off their toilets. We have to take back our economic freedom.

The next time some politician tells you we don’t need better national MPG standards, tell him that you totally and thoroughly agree. Tell him, what we need is for Corporatists like him to go back under the rock where they came from.

The Great American Debate-Out: Education

There is nothing wrong with our education system. We remain the most innovative country in the world, and the most vibrant economy in the world. Others are gaining on us, it’s true. But this is mostly the happy result that the American Dream has escaped our borders and is now actively pursued by folks all over the planet. We remain a country of vibrant political discourse, current partisan rancor and climate of misinformation notwithstanding. We remain a country of literature and arts, regardless of your personal opinion of Hollywood or Rap Music. We’re probably not being fair to our impoverished communities, and probably not getting what we’d like to out of the smart folks who live there as a result. But it doesn’t take much money to fix that.

What is true is that we are lagging the structural shifts in “education” necessary to keep up with the New World Economy. Specifically, we have fallen behind on pure research investment, and shirked our responsibility of (re)training labor, as regards 21st century industries like energy, medicine, and information technology.

Let’s consider for a moment whether a Socialist approach to education might be the right choice. The Spartans did it. They were the vanguard of freedom back when freedom was a little known concept. They sponsored the same path of “education” for every man fit enough, and rewarded the very best talent regardless of background. Why did they do it? I will call it “Social Greed.” They did not value the Individual’s Privilege to be educated. Rather they coveted every Talented Individual for his contributions, and they took them as their own. Of course they were a rigid, inflexible society that in the end could not adapt.

We could do that. We could implement Socialist Education with the goal of owning and optimizing every little Einstein we have out there.

But if we want to privatize education…

First of all, privatizing it means that the more wealthy you are, the more access you have to better education. But it’s hardly true that the more wealthy you are, the more competent or useful you are. We all know the cycle of wealth. The first generation creates it, shooting stars in our economy and history. The second generation rationalizes it, making it sustainable and repairing the excesses and sins of the first generation. The third generation… squanders it, tearing down the great oak as scavengers will do. Do we really want an education system that reserves its very best fruits for maggots and mushrooms? Or do we want one that fosters that first, unprivileged generation, the ones who are the real shooting stars?

But mostly, our higher education system is bereft of pure research dollars and our corporations and vocational schools are devoid of useful training programs. We’ve got the Incompetent Corporatists who are our So-Called Captains of Industry and the Incompetent Corporatists who have “privatized” much of our higher education system pointing the fingers at each other about whose responsibility this is. The result is that the burden has been cast upon Us as Taxpayers and Workers, in a climate where a kind of “speculative certification bubble” has pushed the cost of it beyond Our Reach.

Government can do some, in the way of tax exceptions that motivate the right behavior. But let’s face it, this is one place where we need our industry leaders to re-pledge their national allegiances. And if they won’t, I suggest we drag them from their beds. We have to take back our economic freedom, by any and all means appropriate.

The next time some politician tries to blame you for not re-training yourself, write his name down in your little black book of Corporatists. And I know it’s hard right now, but do the best you can to make it so that the next time your boss blames you, you can tell him where to shove it.

The Great American Debate-Out: Illegal Immigration

We need livable wages, even wage incentives, for American factory, agricultural, and service workers. In order to make that possible in a global economy, we need to use taxes, tariffs, and currency policies as weapons against protectionist nations. We also need to recognize the economies of scale inherent in modern farming practices, and consider that some regulation will be needed to control the natural trend toward oligopoly.

If we are simply unwilling to do that, then we must recognize that we need those 10 million immigrants. We need a way for them to come here legally.

And we need border enforcement. That should be part and parcel of our security policy, not our immigration policy. South American Drug Gangs are terrorists just as much as the Taliban.

John McCain reached across the aisle to create a reform bill with exactly these 2 pillars in it. Look what the Corporatists in the “So-Called Right” did to him. They ran a kook against him in a state full of scared old people, so he would Swing to the Extreme.

The Great American Debate-Out: Health Care

We need to separate health care from health insurance. And we probably need to separate “preventative and general” health care from “catastrophic” health care. We have to do that with regulation, since it is the insurance companies who perpetrated the crime of packaging on us in the first place. And we need to reflect the cost of these three items directly to the consumer, instead of hiding it in tax benefits for mega-employers who buy cadillac plans from defrauding “actuaries.”

We probably need to regulate this industry as if it were a monopoly. Once upon a time, we were spread out all across this country, and that allowed for local communities to directly regulate the cost of care and administration, simply through their neighborly influence. But now most of us are concentrated in urban centers, and those that are not are spread far and wide in the smallest of groups. We need large, centralized entities to do that administration. It’s probably true that this administrative component has perfect economies of scale, meaning that having a single entity is the most efficient way. It’s also definitely true that medical technology has changed drastically, wonder drugs, micro- and nano-surgery, and imaging advances being the most well known. These technologies are highly capital intensive. Perfect economies of scale and capital intensive industries lead naturally to monopolies, which require regulation.

I haven’t read the health care bill. It’s 2000 pages, so I am sure it is full of concessions and full of pork. But it contains 2 critical tenets, requirements it makes of the insurance companies. They are universal access regardless of context, and limiting profits and administrative and marketing costs to 15% of revenues. That is exactly what a regulated monopoly would look like. It’s what utilities look like now.

Take a close look at what the insurance companies are fighting in that bill, and you’ll see that it’s these 2 tenets. And take a close look at the politicians who want to repeal these aspects of the bill. These Corporatists want to replace them with “so-called free market” ideas that actually take away what little leverage consumers still have, while giving insurance, pharmaceutical, and hospital oligopolies total control of the market.

The Great American Debate-Out: The Deficit

Our deficit is a numbers game. And I think it’s a false issue. It’s true that you cannot sustainably spend more than you make. But if you look over the course of even our post-modern history, and take our deficit balances as a whole, that’s not what we have been doing, nor are at risk of doing.

Common sense principals apply here. You have to save for a rainy day. You also have to spend money to make money, particularly on that rainy day. You have to pay as you go, but you can manage cash flow over some “short” period of time. Waste is never helpful, but is sometimes inevitable. A vibrant economy generates more revenue. Contracting money supplies shrinks the economy. Money supplies are expanded primarily through investment and borrowing.

Most of the “deficit issues of the moment” can be tied to the other issues in the list. We can reduce military spending by reducing our dependence on foreign oil. We can also reduce it by taking a common sense, security based, criminal justice approach to the New World of Terrorism. We can reduce entitlement spending by fixing health care and by repairing the financial markets that buoy up our 401K’s. We can fix taxation by invigorating our economy. We can stop spending stimulus dollars as soon as the Corporatists stop sitting on the cash they have hoarded over the past decade, as soon as regional and national banks stop punishing small business owners for the stupid lending decisions the banks made, as soon as “the others” all put that money back into our economy, instead of into the lawsuits, hostile takeovers, and lobbying actions they perpetrate on one another.

Someone has to sound the caution now, it’s true. But let’s face it, in this current political climate, the deficit is partly a wedge issue, a hollow one, and we all know who benefits from the strategy of divide and conquer.

The Great American Debate-Out: The Economy

Our economy faltered because of a speculative bubble. That’s what always happens. And “the others” always find some way to create one. The best you can hope for is to mitigate the effects. But when we turn soft on regulation, and when we pander to greed, we amplify the effects.

Have a look at our entire history of boom and bust. Look at it as a graph, one that looks like a radio signal. On the Gold Standard, the amplitude is totally out of control. Once the Federal Reserve is created, the level of catastrophe is reduced by orders of magnitude. That’s mainly the work of regulation, combined with a wary attitude toward greed.

Some politicians in the “So-Called Right” are telling you that regulation is Socialism, or Communism. In fact, it’s one of the basic pillars of Capitalism. These folks aren’t Republicans or Conservatives, they’re Corporatists, and Extreme at that. If you want to calculate the Center of the Curve, these folks are 3 deviations away from it.

Some politicians in the “So-Called Tea Party” want us to go back to the Gold Standard. These Corporatists are just plain off the curve.

We already voted a vast new set of financial reforms into place. We mostly solved this problem, for now until “the others” find the next loophole. Remember, even Republicans put no serious block to it; behind the scenes many contributed to it. The only question to ask is, why did they all vote against it? 😉

The Great American Debate-Out

This is Great American Debate-Out

…also know as…

Look, Ma! I solved all the World’s Problems with just two hands!
Flogging Brenda’s Blog Server

I was inspired by Brenda’s words about “hosting a fair fight.”

So I went on CNN Election Central and pulled down what exit polls seem to indicate are Americans’ top issues of concern. There are 8 of them, the Economy, the Deficit, Health Care, Illegal Immigration, Education, Energy, Wars and Terrorism.

I am going to post a short blog about each one. Each time I posit what I believe is the real problem. And each time I posit what I believe is the real solution. In 5 there is only one solution, in 2 there are 2 choices, and in one there are 2 choices but one is the favorite. My big bet is, not only am I right, but you and the vast majority of Americans think I’m right, too. So come on, debate me!

I’ve also posted some guidelines for the debate. I think sometimes the lack of structure in blogs and Facebook is itself what creates so much misunderstanding and anger. And let’s face it, in order to agree on several different things, we need some single baseline upon which we all agree. So naturally, let’s debate the guidelines, too! 🙂

The guidelines boil down to 3 things: Facts, America, and Logistics

Stick to the facts. We need a common baseline. We can’t get together if everyone is living in their “own private Idaho.” Be responsible about it. Don’t quote some tabloid journalist who quoted the Maharaja from the Land of Outsource.

If we have a space where we need to fill in a possible truth, we can allow for speculation. But we should require a kind of moderate, centrist version of Occam’s Razor, namely that the fact we choose is obvious, plausible, and perhaps “vouched for by some ‘mainstream’ source.” For example, it’s possible that some government types recently went on a taxpayer-funded Bacchanal to Shangri-la. What’s more plausible though is that they went on a mission of economic diplomacy to a list of Super Power Hopefuls. Our common sense ought choose the latter explanation. And that has a nice effect, because we stop calling each other Prudes and Orgyists, and start debating what our economic policy should be towards those nations.

One of the “facts” we have to stick to is America As She Is. We’re not here to be Europhiles, or Pilgrims. There are other venues for that sort of thing.

Most of what America means is laid out for us in our Historical Documents, and in a long history of law and precedent. There’s a way to upend that, which is through a Constitutional Amendment. So if we can all agree you have the votes to make that happen, you can go ahead and “change the facts” for the purposes of our debate.

Part of what our documents lay out for us is that we are to be governed by the Will of the People, but that we must protect the Rights of the Minority. 51% doesn’t mean you win. It means you have some leverage in the negotiation.

And part of what American means is our cultural heritage. Some of the places we’ve been, some of the things we’ve done, maybe they weren’t the best choices. But we do need to consider that they shape our consciousness and character, and we need to figure out how that fits in to any solution we create.

For example, we tend to mistrust intellectuals, and color our rhetoric with proverbs. We prefer “common sense” to big theories. In a way, we use our own folksy version of Occam’s Razor. I think sometimes Liberals have a hard time communicating good ideas to us because they are unfamiliar with this vernacular.

As another example, we see our Heartland as the Cradle of Our American Values. But Conservatives may not recognize that as a very new phenomenon. That’s not how my parents’ generation was raised. The great accomplishments of all our states and cities, including the urban and coastal ones, used to be a part of Our Heritage. Something like 80% of us live in urban areas, perhaps 60% on the coast. If we eject these people from our heritage, we will remain forever divided.

Finally, let’s keep threads together. Stick to my 8 topics as the main debate. If you want bomb Palookaville back to the Stone Age, do that in the thread about war, not the one about the economy. If you want to debate whether we should have a trade agreement with India, start your own new thread.

And now, start your engines!

Gathering Wood

There’s a less to be learned in this…

It was autumn, and the Indians on the remote reservation asked their new Chief if the winter was going to be cold or mild. Since he was an Indian Chief in a modern society, he had never been taught the old secrets and, when he looked at the sky, he couldn’t tell what the weather was going to be. Nevertheless, to be on the safe side, he replied to his tribe that the winter was indeed going to be cold and that the members of the village should collect wood to be prepared.

But also, being a practical leader, he decided to seek advice from experts. He went to the phone booth, called the National Weather Service and asked, “Is the coming winter going to be cold?

“It looks like this winter is going to be quite cold indeed,” the meteorologist at the weather service responded. So the Chief went back to his people and told them to collect even more wood in order to be prepared.

A week later he called the National Weather Service again. “Is it still going to be a cold winter?” he asked.

“Yes,” the man at the National Weather Service again replied, “It’s going to be a very cold winter. The Chief again went back to his people and ordered them to collect every scrap of wood they could find.

Two weeks later he called the National Weather Service again. “Are you absolutely sure that this winter is going to be very cold?” he asked for a third time.

“Absolutely,” the weatherman replied. “In fact, it’s going to be one of the coldest winters ever!”

“How can you be so sure?” the Chief asked.

The weatherman replied, “The Indians are gathering wood like crazy.”

The Great American Debate-Out: Terrorism

To solve this problem, we have to make a choice. We have to treat terrorists as either Border-less Nation-States, or as Common Criminals.

If we treat them as Border-less Nation-States, then we can make war on them by conventional means. Of course it may not be very effective, but we can do it. Of course then, we should also make war on their allies. So if we make war on Bin Laden, then it’s war on the Taliban, then on Afghanistan, then on to Pakistan and eventually China. At least we’ll have India on our side. :-/

That’s not such a good situation. And, if we treat them as such, we also give them credibility as sovereigns, which seems unwise.

The better choice is probably to treat them as Common Criminals.

We have the best criminal justice system in the world. We are doing a great job of prosecuting criminals, and a great job of protecting citizens from abuses. We can always get better, but by it’s nature, it’s never perfect.

So if we are going to treat them as criminals, we should use the best system in the world for that, which is our own!

However painful to the soul it may be, we must accept that part of our system means affording them some fair legal justice. It may not need to be exactly our own civil rights. But probably it should be some modicum of what we do, governed by some national or global civilian body.

The other big part is law enforcement. We know how to do that already! We have our state, local and federal bodies, and they are doing a great job. When they don’t do such a good job, it’s usually because we haven’t given them enough tools. I don’t mean legal tools, like waiving Miranda rights. I mean real tools, like guns, training, electronics, coordination efforts, vehicles, better wages, better medical insurance, or just plain more manpower or a pat on the back.

We need to extend and expand our law enforcement capacity at home, and appropriately overseas. Doing that ought to be something everyone Left, Right and Center can get behind, since it takes the best of everyone’s agenda. We’re spending money to create jobs for American workers and to protect ourselves from real threats to our national security, and we’re doing it in a way that is both active and rational at the same time.

If a Hippie tells you we don’t need more law enforcement, give them a hug and gently remind them that they are, after all, Hippies.

If a Corporatist tells you we don’t need more law enforcement, tell him you’re not giving him a tax cut so he can fund his own Private Army of Brown Shirts.