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The framers respected majority rule … January 4, 2012

Posted by WillardWhyte in 2012 elections, Financial Reform, Obama, Politics.
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… and built a government around it, one that has served us extremely well over our 230-odd years. They were careful to not design their government with slavish adherence to this rule,  building in numerous checks and balances on power — among branches, within branches and with frequent elections to reflect changing public sentiments.

Over time,  both the Senate and House arrived at rules, procedures and courtesies that allowed the machinery of government to move, with a very healthy respect for minority opinion and stature. This all came together to form a government that moved slowly, with consideration and conservation — by design.

The filibuster for centuries was the Death Star — the ultimate weapon for a minority in Congress to employ to draw a very firm line in the sand on a matter not routine, a matter that went to the very core of principle.

Of late, that weapon has become a tool used by the minority in Congress to impose its will on the nation, on matters large and small, petty and of portent. It no longer relates to principle, except by extension from a minor matter down a very long tortuous logic chain to a “principal” such as a question of the relative strength of government overall, perhaps, or of methodology.

It has been used to usurp majority rule and, with intent, to bring the functioning of duly elected government to a halt.

Today the President said: “Enough.” He went ahead and used his recess appointment power to install Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a much-needed agency enacted into law in 2009.

Republicans who opposed the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill in 2009 lost that vote to a healthy majority after many compromises were incorporated into the bill to accommodate the minority’s views. What initially was proposed as a separate, standalone agency was moved within the Treasury Department — a concession to those who feared it could become a rogue operating on its own, with its own budget and no oversight by people with sufficient respect for the needs of lenders, be they banks, near-banks or the many non-bank actors making payday loans.

Some Republicans see no need at all for an agency acting to require fair, open and honest lending — and debt instruments a common person can understand. They have attempted for more than a year to overturn the majority verdict on this bureau with stalemate, backed by the threat of filibuster on any and all nominees to head this lawfully established agency. They lacked the votes to alter the enabling legislation, so they dug in their heels and refused to allow an up-or-down vote on the matter.

Now in nine months, the voters will listen to candidates for Congress, and all are welcome to discuss the merits of the law establishing this agency, any and all flaws in its establishment and propose any and all remedies. Perhaps their arguments will be telling and help win the election of a majority of like-thinkers to the House and the Senate — and perhaps even the White House.

At that point, they would be a majority backed by a clear vote and able to adopt a bill altering the current law. That’s how the Constitution set things up to work.

The minority view on a matter is not ignored or trampled. But the majority will holds sway until a new majority is elected and alters course.

A great many of the Republicans in Congress — and the voices over the air who urge them on — have worked now for more than a year to subvert the system that the Constitution established, many of them resorting to a suggestion that the vote of 2010 that granted the GOP a majority in the House came with a mantle anointing all of their views as blessed by a national majority.

Not so. Not so because the Founders were wise enough to not frame their government as a reflection of Parliament, to temper their democracy with systems that required the passage of considerable time to enable a majority voice to emerge fully formed, discussed and tempered.

The majority still rules in this nation and today the President spoke very forcefully in defense of that Constitutional concept — one the GOP with its long-running obstructionism has degraded to the detriment of the nation.

Voters who have watched this tyranny of a minority within a minority should mind the larger lesson: If this is how this party behaves with a share of power — with complete disrespect for majority rule — how do you think it would conduct business with majority power?

Clearly, the cadre sent to D.C. in 2010 have no respect whatever for any opinion other than their own, making them a danger to the nation and its people.

 

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‘Let them eat peanut butter’ November 20, 2011

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Musings, Politics, Wall Street.
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… is the word from the Wall Street Journal, arguably the tippie-top of  the “mainstream” media voices considering our world from the perspective of the people running it.

And I am struck by the absolute contrast in two pieces the fine folks at RealClearPolitics led me to this morning. One is Peggy Noonan, and this thoughtful and deeply constructive piece from an adviser to the last president before the current president. The other is today’s sampling from one James Taranto, a commentary that is more a straight play to the cheap seats and a cry into the storm with toes as deeply sunken into the pre-K sand as those he mocks from within a Bank of America branch in San Francisco. (more…)

Yes, let’s put Goldman back in charge December 4, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Environment, Justice, Politics, U.S. Budget, Wall Street.
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I’ve been listening very very closely to all the reform talk down in the Swamp, emerging only with confusion.

One group – the bright Red one – rails against an end to what always was limited tax relief for the top 1 percent or 2 percent of earners, now casting any act to not extend this relief as a move that would sap the slow 3 percent recovery we are in the midst of. Can’t take that $80-$100 billion a year out of circulation in what they continue to say is a “recession,” even though the economy stopped receding and started proceeding four quarters ago.

They know that. But they lie because it’s convenient for the narrative.

This group, then, does a wonderful spin with full gainer, and demands an end to extended unemployment benefits and an immediate return to 2008 spending levels, reigning in such stimulus-intended measures as broadened Medicaid coverage, boosted university research grants, various individual tax credits designed to spur household spending on energy efficiency upgrades. This, if put into effect, would take at least $100 billion in spending by individuals out of the economy – spending on doctors, medicines, researcher salaries and equipment purchases and all those things all those people scraping by need to buy. You know, rent, milk, bread, gasoline, spaghetti sauce, mostly from small businesses, if that matters (actually, the Wal-Marts are counting on taking that “market share” pretty soon, so it doesn’t long term).

Somehow, the Red team doesn’t think this will in any way slow down the economic expansion, though study after study show without dispute that the poor and unemployed and even the middle class university research assistant have a much higher propensity to spend than does the individual or couple making $250,000 and up. So if you are going to pull $100 billion out of the economy – and either way you are doing that – and your true intention is to not hurt the recovery, you draw from the top, not the bottom, of the take-home ladder, because the subtraction of spending multiplied down the line is less.

(more…)

Serious business for the infantile November 20, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Greed, Politics, U.S. Budget, Wall Street.
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Exactly when did these two guys — Simpson in particular — become the ultimate in Wise Men?

And from this piece, there seems to be a whole lot of chortling going on over the potential ruination of the U.S. economy if their particular strategy for reducing the deficit — and radically overhauling the entire tax code with little assessment of impact — is not swallowed pretty much whole. Get this:

“I can’t wait for the bloodbath in April,” Simpson said, relishing the prospect of political turmoil. “When debt limit time comes, they’re going to look around and say, ‘What in the hell do we do now? We’ve got guys who will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give ‘em a piece of meat, real meat” in the form of spending cuts. “And boy, the bloodbath will be extraordinary,” he said.

Extraordinary indeed. It’s all a game to him too — the graying, dottering Fox can’t wait for the Hen House to catch fire.

Shameful.

And so the ‘working together’ era begins … November 3, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in 2010 Election, Healthcare, Politics.
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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will talk with the choir Thursday at the Heritage Foundation. And it seems he has little interest in finding common ground with President Obama.

The only important thing, it seems, is to make him disappear two long years from now. This from the AP:

The Senate’s Republican leader says congressional lawmakers can and should vote to repeal President Barack Obama’s health care law, repeatedly if necessary. If Obama should veto laws repealing the health care overhaul, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says, the House should cancel funding for its programs. As for the Senate, he says that senators should vote against what he calls the law’s “most egregious provisions.” In remarks prepared for a speech Thursday to the conservative Heritage Foundation, McConnell says it’s all part of the effort to deny Obama a second term in the White House in 2012.Tuesday’s election gave Republicans at least 46 Senate seats next year, making McConnell the leader of a strengthened minority.

I like that. It’s all part of the effort to deny Obama a second term.

Not part of an effort to do what’s right in terms of fixing our wasteful, inefficient and incredibly costly healthcare system.

Just a stepping stone to full power.

Why don’t we ask them to think? September 25, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Politics, Wall Street.
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In the blizzard of lies, slanders, pledges and pure manure that this year is standing in as political discourse, anyone left still searching for a baseline of hard, unadulterated data from which to form an opinion on critical economic decisions before us is in a tough spot.

The zealots have the field and from their extreme vantages on the Red or Blue fringe they hurl their slogans, their spin-studies and prove their ridiculous contentions with a shard of a subset of numbers yanked free of the critical context that allows them to give some insight into what all is going on out there in a very complex and fluid economy.

I think my favorite actor remains Rep. John Boehner, the House minority leader and Speaker-in-Waiting, who continues to whine about the great uncertainty in the business community that is playing a huge role in holding the economy back. Business leaders won’t commit to hiring, reinvestment or new product launches because they can’t see over the horizon – at least, they can’t build into profit-loss models hard numbers for things like personal income tax rates, capital gains rates, health insurance costs or outlays for such things as pollution control gear, new product labeling or safety testing. They can’t do anything to grow their businesses because – alas poor Yorick – of the policies of President Obama and the Democrats.

Which, of course, is sophistry.

(more…)

But I’m not gonna put the pink slip on it August 28, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Justice, Musings, Politics.
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I guess I must take a look today at what all goes on with this, even though I have a very long list of things I’d rather do on a wonderful day, all blue sky beautious as it is and all. Almost a sin to peek, but even today’s wonderful highway won’t be enough to keep me from wondering on this cloddish collision.

I’m just going to pray that the sight of Abe staring down with his sad solemn eyes, the awesome white obelisk and the floaty, grainy image of Martin will lead Mr. Beck to a place he says he seeks today, a place of honor, a place of justice, a place of hope and building and great possibilities.

But more than any of all that, a place of basic faith — in us, our vision and the things that we will be if only we believe hard enough in us. A place where more than anything, our greatest enemy is a simple discouraging word uttered in anger sure to lead us first astray and then headlong into the shadows.

Perhaps Mr. Beck will be true to the words in the stone behind Mr. Lincoln, true to the character of the man who stood in that place so many years ago and matched a dream against all the bitter words, the burning hatreds and basest fears and willed us all to a better place, a still imperfect place a league nearer to the City on a Hill we stepped ashore to realize.

Perhaps he will be overcome as he glimpses this place and embraces the honor he speaks of seeking today.

Perhaps he will then turn to the microphone and speak with honor — and truth and dispense with the rancor, the anger, the accelerants spewed to titillate, incite and summon forces Abe and Martin and so many knew — but showed us how to resist with a much stronger calling.

Perhaps.

Let them eat (less) cake August 2, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Economy, Greed, Politics.
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We all should brace for a bigtime spittle eruption from the folks down in D.C. who view their job as an elected official as little more than to pose as a guardian of privilege. On deck is a fight over whether to extend a whole bunch of tax cuts enacted back in the good old days circa 2001 and 2003.

The Privilege Party will go to bat against the President’s plan to retain most of the reductions, but allow rate cuts to expire for people with incomes in excess of $200,000 or families making more than $250,000 a year. I found this Washington Post primer to be quite helpful, particularly as it addresses some of the myths the Privilege Party will soon begin to trot out. And the PP includes folks Red and Blue. Here’s the nut of what Obama and others of both stripes are targeting as a middle road:

The cuts lowered tax rates across the board on income, dividends and capital gains; eventually eliminated the estate tax; further lowered burdens on married couples, parents and the working poor; and increased tax credits for education and retirement savings. Obama’s proposal would extend most of these reductions, allowing only those for individuals making more than $200,000 and families making more than $250,000 to expire.

I urge you to read through the whole thing and then wander around and try to vet any factual statements you wonder about and then tune in to some of the discussions going on out there on this question.

Because this is the first big choice on the table if you really want to start to whittle down that federal budget deficit. There is spending to trim, of course, much of it wheedled into the tax code and other repositories to subsidize folks like the oil industry by keeping the real costs of fossil fuels artificially low.

A thought I hope you keep in mind: These lower tax rates for capital gains, massive estates and the top 2 percent of wage earners have done nothing in the last 18 months to trigger lending to small business by the banks we bailed out, motivate investment, hiring or innovation by corporations now back in business with 20%-25% margins built on huge productivity gains squeezed out of a fearful labor force, or any type of  economy-building activity that I can see.

Perhaps a higher tax bill for the occupants of the Gravy Train right now would provide for our esteemed “private-sector leadership” what appears to be a very much needed kick in the ass.

Reds 0, Blues 0 — Flip a Golden Coin July 28, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in angry rants, Greed, Justice, Politics.
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Doesn’t really matter who you want to blame for this one — the boys in Blue for rushing to get a small patch in place to at least let you know who is behind the gusher of money that will pour into political advertising this fall, and keep foreign corporations like BP out of the game, or the Reds for clicking their heels together in yet another chorus of “Nyet.”

It was a rushed bill — and the exemptions for a few like the National Rifle Association torched any stand on the principle of the matter. Creating a priviledged class within this regulation would have rendered the law unjust.

But once again the GOP leadership showed how adept it is at dishing the pure manure. (more…)

Time’s up? Where’s the GOP plan? July 27, 2010

Posted by WillardWhyte in Education, Politics.
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Not too much has been said lately — at least in a prominent place — about public education reform, an area where the Obama administration agrees in large part with many of the voices within the GOP and otherwise on a conservative side of the equation. On things like linking teacher pay to student performance, coming down hard on chronically failing schools — even to the point of replacing the entire staff as Obama supported in Rhode Island — bolstering charter schools (as long as they also measure up), establishing national standards for basics like reading and math and using incentives to motivate adoption of methods that are proven to work.

Many of these notions long have been opposed by teacher unions, particularly by elements rooted in inner cities where failure today is all too common — some of it for very good societal reasons and some of it because of entrenched incompetence. The President has tried to lead on this matter, expending political capital on a course not all that popular with some core elements in his own party.

I’m not sure I buy into all his folks are proposing.  But if there ever were an area where a majority in Congress should have materialized by now, it’s here. Yet, we get this from Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn: “I’d say time is up. I don’t see it happening.”

Even though vast momentum is building in more than half the states for reforms that might actually move to change things in one of the most vitally important realms.

Time’s up, the “loyal” opposition says  — on July 27 — because — why?

Because it’s time for the party to do nothing constructive. It’s time to go tell the voters they would be better off turning control of the Congress over to the GOP. Time’s up because the GOP wants no progress toward solving any of the important problems of today — like failing schools — that might be interpreted in any way as a “Democratic” accomplishment.

Instead, we need to wait another year for their plan, which is — what?

If we don’t ask Sen. Alexander and any and all others waving the Red banner in the next few months, we’re gonna get a surprise. Could be good. Could be bad, just as is the case with any blank check