Thursday, September 29, 2005

Delay ... government to the highest bidder

Some excerpts from David Brooks -- the conservative comentator from the NYTimes. He points out the spending Delay has overseen has had no rhyme nor reason -- other than rewarding people who give money to Republicans.

Our government has been sold to the highest bidder -- which isn't surprising. What is surprising is that they are not even attempting to do the right thing for the country... At least democrats come out and tell you they want your tax $$$ for social programs... You have a chance to agree or disagree and vote accordingly. This new class of Republican says they are fiscally conservative, then proceed to dole out our tax dollars to those who contribute to the cause.
 

By

DAVID BROOKS

Published: September 29, 2005

...

The big difference between the two men is that while Gingrich is a self-styled visionary, DeLay is a partisan. Gingrich was quite willing to cut deals with Democrats if it would serve some policy objective. ... The DeLay Era would be marked by one word: partisanship. Far from being a conservative ideologue, DeLay was a traditional Tammany Hall politician who would do whatever it took to put more Republican fannies in House seats.

Over the past four years, according to a Heritage Foundation study, spending on veterans' benefits has gone up 51 percent; spending on the Housing & Urban Development and Commerce Departments is up 86 percent; spending on community and regional development is up 71 percent .

Small-government beliefs were fine for the campaign trail, but when it came to actual governing, the spending just splurged out in a shapeless ooze, guided by no sensible set of priorities other than the idea that voters who get money may vote for incumbents.

Politics is a team sport. Nobody can get anything done alone. But in today's Washington, loyalty to the team displaces loyalty to the truth. Loyalty to the team explains why President Bush doesn't fire people who serve him poorly, and why, as a result, his policies are often not well executed.

Loyalty to the team is why I often leave meals with politicians thinking "reasonable in private," but then I see them ranting like cartoon characters on TV. Loyalty to the team is why someone like Chuck Hagel is despised in Republican ranks even though, whether you agree or not, he is courageously speaking his mind.

Monday, September 26, 2005

How can this be rational?

Deficits are approaching 5% of GDP... where even supply-siders start worrying about deficits and their effect on the economy.
 
What is going on with my government?
 
We have a political party:
 
1- paying for the war and reconstruction in Iraq
2- paying for Katrina reconstruction
3- passing pork-barrel legislation (like the highway bill and the energy bill and the prescription drug benefit ... all FILLED with special interest subsidies like $200 million for bridges to no-where in Alaska)
4- proposing tax cuts for the richest 1% of our society...
 
... all of this is to be paid by borrowing money from the Chinese -- so that our kids have to pay for it, with interest.
 
How is this conservative, reasonable or even rational?!
 
The proposed estate-tax cut would account for $300 billion alone? Can't we ask those who have benefited the most from our markets to pay more? No one is asking them to go into the poor house, or even mortgage the farm...
 
If Americans want all these 'services' out of their government (strong military, government assistance to the poor, etc.), should we be honest and at least pay for the government we want instead of passing the buck to the next generation? Either that or have the backbone to say 'no you can't have that'?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Leadership

Yes, I'm about to bash this administration again.
 
I've been reading more news on this administration's -- and indeed -- the Republican Congress' response to Katrina. It involves throwing billions of tax dollars to rebuild the city and help folks in need. Great... But where is all this money going to come from?
 
The president says spending cuts... yeah right... Just like his tax cuts would be paid for by spending cuts and economic growth. Didn't we hear that refrain back in the 80's under Reagan? It didn't work then, it hasn't worked now, and the country is bleed both red ink and the blood of our soldiers overseas under this buffoon.
 
Katrina was a natural disaster. You'd expect the response for an unforeseen event to cause our leadership to 'change course', come up with some new ideas and find a way to solve the problem that doesn't include selling more bonds to China and Japan (one way that we finance our debt).
 
Currently, 8% of the federal budget goes toward interest on the debt... I wonder what it'll be when this guy leaves office?
 
I don't know about you, but I'm ready for some thinking, innovative leadership. Stay the course is as likely to work here at home as the strategy does overseas.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Debt for the foreseeable future...

With the national debt currently consuming more than 8% of expenditures (i.e. - >8% of the budget goes to interest on the debt - a lot to China and Japan who buy our securities) will the Republican President and Congress get together to pass a realistic plan for financing Katrina reconstruction and getting our government on some kind of solid financial footing?
 

We've never had socialism and irresponsibility like this before. Will the Rs bankrupt the republic?

Friday, September 16, 2005

The problem isn’t with government – it’s with ideology

The more I hear about the Katrina disaster the more my belief in progressive government solidifies.

 

As everyone knows, Katrina was a huge natural disaster. But what some fail to realize is that a lot of the damage could have – and indeed should have – been avoided if, as a society, we more fully backed progressive principles that put dollars behind the concept that "we're all in this together".

 

By now most everyone has heard about the drastic budget cuts to the levy projects down in LA. The Army Corps of Engineers has been requesting several hundred million dollars, each year, for the last several years in an attempt to shore-up the well known flaws in the New Orleans levy system. Even if all those repairs and modifications were made the city would still likely have flooded but maybe not to the degree seen.

 

But the larger point is this: The neo-conservative philosophy of "government as the problem" is really the central issue here. Conservatives across the spectrum all decry the inefficiency of government and laud the power of free markets. If government just gets out of the way, they say, capitalism will cure most-all our woes…

 

Indeed, free markets are wonderful things: they are a sure-fire way of identifying what the populace wants – and to a certain degree, what it needs. Free markets are very good at getting those products and service to market efficiently. But free markets, while great at giving us the next technological widget that everyone 'needs', are horrible at identifying and addressing the safeguards that define society. Those safeguards range from Social Security – which helps members of our society who (maybe due to their own lack of foresight) didn't plan for their old age; to funding for research and development at our Universities; to maintaining the nation's infrastructure.

 

This belief that the free market, left to it's own accord, will solve most, if not all, of society's ills leaves our leaders hamstrung: unable to act. This is exactly what we saw both before and after Katrina.

 

The free market economy does little if anything to address disaster preparedness and poverty (some of which has its roots in openly discriminatory government policies as recent as the '50s and '60 and hence should be addressed by government). What about the natural outcome of competition (which necessarily creates winners and losers)? I believe you quickly come to the conclusion that government has a role to play in all of these areas. If it does not for you, I'd argue you don't want to live in society but rather in a free-for-all where survival of the fittest is the rule of the day.

 

While I truly applaud our president for finally saying 'the buck stops here' I have to ask if the magnitude of this disaster could have been largely avoided. Operating with an attitude that 'government is the problem' along with blatant cronyism we ended up with someone with NO emergency management experience in such a crucial position at a time we know "emergency management" is such a big deal ( i.e. – terrorism). Now we find ourselves in a position where the federal government will have to spend several billion dollars as opposed to the several hundred million the Army Corp of Eng requested to complete the levy upgrades.

 

How many other New Orleans levies are out there waiting for funding?

 

More importantly, will we elect leaders that will invest in us… in America's future, instead of gambling with that future (by using our $$$) on a foreign policy that seems to be making more people in the world despise us, than admire us.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Time for Delay and his type to go...

Tom Delay epitomizes what's wrong with 'Bush-government'. His faith-based/self-righteous legislative style leaves no room for self-inspection, doubt or compromise: the characteristics and very foundations of democratic government. The sooner he and his ilk are kicked out of our supposedly secular government the better all of us will be.

http://aolsvc.news.aol.com/news/article?id=20050913183709990012

Friday, September 09, 2005

More on the lack of experience at FEMA

Not only was the FEMA chief not qualified for his job -- other than being a Bush loyalist -- many of the other top folks in the agency also had little or no qualifications.
 
Is this the way to bring 'integrity' back to government? If that's the case I'd rather have blow jobs in the oval office any day...
 
From MSBN - 'brain drain' since 2001
 
Five of eight top Federal Emergency Management Agency officials came to their posts with virtually no experience in handling disasters and now lead an agency whose ranks of seasoned crisis managers have thinned dramatically since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

FEMA's top three leaders -- Director Michael D. Brown, Chief of Staff Patrick J. Rhode and Deputy Chief of Staff Brooks D. Altshuler -- arrived with ties to President Bush's 2000 campaign or to the White House advance operation, according to the agency. Two other senior operational jobs are filled by a former Republican lieutenant governor of Nebraska and a U.S. Chamber of Commerce official who was once a political operative.

Meanwhile, veterans such as U.S. hurricane specialist Eric Tolbert and World Trade Center disaster managers Laurence W. Zensinger and Bruce P. Baughman -- who led FEMA's offices of response, recovery and preparedness, respectively -- have left since 2003, taking jobs as consultants or state emergency managers, according to current and former officials.

...

But scorching criticism has been aimed at FEMA, and it starts at the top with Brown, who has admitted to errors in responding to Hurricane Katrina and the flooding in New Orleans. The Oklahoma native, 50, was hired to the agency after a rocky tenure as commissioner of a horse sporting group by former FEMA director Joe M. Allbaugh, the 2000 Bush campaign manager and a college friend of Brown's.

Rhode, Brown's chief of staff, is a former television reporter who came to Washington as advance deputy director for Bush's Austin-based 2000 campaign and then the White House. He joined FEMA in April 2003 after stints at the Commerce Department and the U.S. Small Business Administration.

Altshuler is a former presidential advance man. His predecessor, Scott Morris, was a media strategist for Bush with the Austin firm Maverick Media.

When are people gonna wake up and realize that competence is what's most important in government... not a congenial disposition and a Texas drawl. Those are about the only qualifications I can see in George W Bush.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

The core problem

So Katrina: what can I say that already hasn't been said? Do I think the response was slow/inadequate -- yes. But the core question is why -- after 4 years -- wasn't the nation better prepared for a large scale disaster.
 
First, the thing that pissed me off was finding out the Bush-appointed head of FEMA spent the '90's as the commissioner of the Arabian Horse Association... Great, sounds like the perfect experience to head up the nations disaster relief agency. OK -- every administration practices nepotism: but usually those put in positions of real responsibility have some relevant experience. Did the fact that the head of FEMA have NO disaster relief experience play into the response -- or lack thereof? I'm not sure -- it's a big government agency -- but it would seem so. 
 
Moving on, the bigger issue/answer seems to be the administration's blind faith in the ability of corporate America -- and businessmen in general -- to solve/address our social problems. The market and capitalism isn't 'god' -- they don't solve social problems (as the Republicans' would - in general - have you believe): That's what government is for. Capitalism, as an economic system, is great at identifying and bringing to market those products and services the populace wants... now or "tomorrow"... but it is terrible at preparing for and addressing those less fortunate: whether their state was created by natural disaster or by birth (contrary to the Declaration of Independence, are men are not 'created equal' -- simply look at the statistics for the numbers of people who come from relative poverty to "make it" vs idiots like our current president who, having not been born with a silver spoon in his mouth would be a urine-soaked drunk somewhere in Houston. The role of government is to try and reduce this disparity ( i.e. try to level the playing field) while also ensuring we don't end up with a plutocracy (which we seem to be moving toward inexorably).
 
Government is the best agency we have for preparing for the future -- the "longer term" future. I believe that all meaningful, basic research is performed by government -- or government funded agencies (e.g . - our national labs, universities, etc.). This research isn't marketable, but provides the basis for the next series of innovations. Why would corporate America perform research that wasn't directly related to the creation of a new product or service? They wouldn't and don't. However, we know this research is very important: many of the modern conveniences we enjoy were derived from government funded research started in the '60s.
 
Back to the original topic: the government is uniquely positioned to plan for natural disasters. Charities are great, but they are good at bringing food and water -- clothing and maybe providing shelter after the fact ... But during the event, you're gonna need helicopters and other rescue services that are provided for by your tax dollars... And those services simply don't provide a 'return on investment' that would motivate private industry. That's why we have local fire departments, police, etc.
 
Maybe we need some of these other 'public' services too -- like a well run FEMA.
 
OK, enough rambling for one day...

Friday, September 02, 2005

Disaster

So why, 4 years after 9/11, aren't we more prepared to deal with mass casualties and a devastated city? I thought that's what DHS was supposed to be preparing for?