Thursday, December 22, 2011

2011's worst economic ideas

The 10 Worst Economic Ideas of 2011
Say it ain’t so, Ron Wyden. The Democratic senator from Oregon has teamed upwith Congressman Paul Ryan to propose an option for Medicare recipients to buy private plans. They would be offered a flat payment to buy private plans if they so chose. Competition for these dollars will supposedly make Medicare and the health insurance companies more efficient. More likely, however, it will result in misleading claims by the health insurance companies or reduced coverage plans. It will raise costs for Medicare as healthy seniors are induced to take cheaper private plans with healthier individuals. Allegedly, the Wyden-Ryan plan would control for all this by setting minimal standards. Forget about that. The Obama administration has already given in on federal standards for Obamacare, letting states set their own. Guess who most of the states will favor. Seniors will probably have to move to New York or Massachusetts to get decent plans.But that’s not even the big rub. It is that Medicare payments will be limited to growing just 1 percent faster than GDP. Health care costs have risen considerably faster than that for a long time. Somehow Wyden thinks that such a limit will force reforms. In sum, it will simply lead to less coverage and more expense for beneficiaries. ___________________________________________________

media is the issue: www.freepress.net

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Capitalism \= Greed and Gambling

Wisdom from across the pond:
Greed is a human motivation, but not a dominant one –and the institutions that most exemplified the philosophy of greed were those that imploded in 2007-08. The goods made by workers whose motivation was purely instrumental were driven out of the marketplace by those of people who took pride in their work and of organisations which understood that complex assembly depends on teamwork. A semantic confusion leads us to use the word market to describe both the process which puts food on our table and the activity of gambling in credit default swaps. That confusion has enabled people to claim the virtues of the former for the latter.

Many of those who preach the doctrine of free enterprise loudest have succeeded by skills more akin to those of backroom politicians than of entrepreneurs. Mobile phone networks grew rapidly because a fortunate interlude of deregulatory fervour wrested a monopoly from incumbent fixed line operators. The inventors of social networking sites resemble the occupiers of St Paul’s Churchyard tents more than the occupants of boardrooms. The besuited Winkelvoss twins, lobbying and litigating for a share of Mark Zuckerberg’s business, embody the deformed view of market economics which confuses business interests with free enterprise.

Perhaps the “something nicer” which should replace capitalism is a more nuanced –and more accurate –account of capitalism itself.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

"Bold"

Nein, Nein, Nein

Voices on my teevee today telling me Herman's 9-9-9 plan is ridiculous, half-baked, and sure to bring on a second recession.  But each "analyst" wrapped with a reminder that it was bold.

If there is one thing I've learned from Adam Sandler's career in "film" as it relates to real world politics its that anyone can have an idea and get others on board supporting it (see every director or studio responsible for every movie Sandler has made besides Punch Drunk Love).

Just because an idea is so ridiculous only one moron thought of it doesn't make it bold. Declarations of boldness should be reserved for those ideas that not only stand out but that are also, you know, good ideas.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Utah Democrats File GRAMA Request

Contact:
Matt Lyon
801.597.8888 | mlyon@utdem.org

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Utah Democrats File GRAMA Request on Behalf of People of Utah

Democrats Charge that Republican Leadership is Taking a 2x4 to the Democratic Process
______________________________

SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah State Democratic Party filed an official GRAMA request today with the Utah State Legislature regarding the closed door, secret conversations leading to the current "fiasco" over Utah’s congressional maps.

“Utah’s Republican leadership is forcing our hand. The Utah Democratic Party has been compelled to demand transparency and fairness on behalf of all Utah citizens,” said Jim Dabakis, Chair of the Utah Democratic Party.

“The poster children of closed cronyism in government – Representatives Dave Clark and Carl Wimmer – are working backroom deals to support their selfish political ambitions. They're throwing out months of work and hundreds of thousands of dollars of public money," continued Dabakis. "Someone must speak for the people of Utah. Someone must smash a battering ram through the closed doors. Moral and public pressure has not worked so far -- so today -- the Utah Democratic Party is being forced to file a GRAMA request to ensure our government is acting in a fair, open, and transparent manner.”

“This is not a decision we are making lightly. We don’t want to tie up the legislature and drag on an unnecessary process. BUT THE REPBULICAN PARTY BOSSES ARE TAKING A 2X4 TO THE DEMOCRATIC PROCESS AND THEY MUST REPENT!" Dabakis proclaimed. "They must open the doors, come to the table, and develop a compromise. We are willing to compromise - are they?”

Dabakis concluded: “The GRAMA request is the first step towards preparing a lawsuit on behalf of the people of Utah. We do not want to go the next step of subpoenas, affidavits, depositions, testifying under oath and official legal claims, but today, we feel we have no choice but to begin moving in this direction and we are reluctantly taking this step to ensure that ALL Utahns are represented.”

###

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Better Know a Super Committee

Crossposted at MyDD.

Super committee member Xavier Becerra (D-CA) says everything should be on the table, and that there are "no sacred cows" as they scramble to cut $1.5 trillion from the deficit (jobs!).  No sacred cows except their campaign contributions and contact with lobbyists as they meet, that is.

Watchdogs have circled on that theme hoping to pressure members to voluntarily disclose campaign donations and contacts with lobbyists.  Politico:
[...] a coalition of government reform and transparency organizations are demanding that supercommittee members voluntarily disclose their committee-related contacts with lobbyists and publicly report any campaign donations within 48 hours of receiving them.

The groups note in the letter that most federally mandated lobbying and campaign finance disclosure reports covering October, November and December – when the supercommittee is slated to conduct the bulk of its work – won’t become public until mid-January.

“Failure to ensure transparency of these fundamental avenues of influence will reinforce the public’s mistrust of the process and risks delegitimizing the committee’s work,” the 14 groups wrote in a joint letter being sent this afternoon to the dozen supercommittee members. “Your critical work on this committee has begun, and yet the public remains in the dark about special interests’ attempts to influence your decision-making process, whether by meeting with you or donating to your campaigns.”
According to Politico only three committee members have agreed to halt fundraising while the committee meets, but so far none have agreed to voluntarily disclose important details about contacts.  Lobbyists see the opportunity here with the concentration of power and no mandate for disclosure until it's too late.  The Sunlight Foundation is hoping that changes with H.R.2860, the Deficit Committee Transparency Act.  Sunlight's Ellen Miller, via email:
Without transparency around this process, we don’t know who the committee members are listening to. But we can take a guess: Money speaks louder than words in Washington.

The committee members could easily take measures to increase transparency on their own: Disclosing their campaign contributions and meetings with lobbyists or powerful interests in real-time would be one way. But while the Committee has at least taken steps to have a few open meetings, it’s business as usual when it comes to campaign fundraising and secret meetings with powerful special interests.

This legislation can change that, but it needs your help. The bill has been introduced, but it needs cosponsors to gain momentum while it still counts -- the Super Committee has already started its work, and it has to make its recommendations by December, right around the corner.

Open the Super Congress. Ask your representatives to cosponsor the Super Congress transparency bill!
I sat in on a conference call with Sunlight policy wonks and staffers from  sponsor Rep. Loebsack's office last week that detailed the bill and the campaign.  Recording posted here.

Most of us are hoping this committee, like the Catfood Commission, just goes away.  But their recommendations in December might not.  Without this legislation, details on who influenced the committee won't drop until it's too late.  This may be an atypical disclosure ask, but this is an atypical committee about to make recommendations that could effect programs like Medicare and Social Security for the next generation.

Call your reps.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

"Democrats' Nightmare Candidate"

AHAHAHAHAHAHA!

To: The SideTrack
To: Phillis Schlafly
Subject: Democrats' Nightmare Candidate

Dear Fellow Conservative,

I'm asking for your urgent help.

I've been fighting for our shared beliefs for well over 40 years. I understand the liberal mindset and what makes them tick. And I can tell you that the only thing that they dislike more than an outspoken conservative -- is an outspoken conservative woman.

Radical feminists and their allies in the "mainstream media" take absolute delight in trying to rip apart any woman who dares not walk in lock-step with their anti-family, secular-progressive agenda. Today I am writing to tell you about their nightmare candidate.

Cherilyn Eagar was there with me back in 1977 when she helped us stop the feminist-driven "Equal Rights Amendment." Today she is running for Congress in what is shaping up to be one of the most important races in the country. But for Cherilyn to be successful, she is going to need the support of conservatives just like you.

Like you and me, Cherilyn understands that our Constitution is under vicious attack. Once elected, I promise you that she will take the lead in repealing Obama's destructive agenda and stand firm against the radical agenda of the Far Left.

As a wife, a mother and grandmother, Cherilyn brings good hardworking "real world" experience to the table. And that's something that is sorely needed in Washington, DC these days. I hope you'll stand with me and follow this link to make the most generous donation you can.

Faithfully,
Phillis Schlafly

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Most Likely To...

Ars Technica:

For many in the US, expertise has taken on a negative cultural value; experts are part of an elite that thinks it knows better than the average citizen. (This is accurate, for what it's worth.)
The mentality behind the anti-intellectual, anti-expert phenomenon is human nature. And I don't mean to imply all experts are equal or even all worth listening to (Sarah Palin is probably an expert at something...maybe). But the current push back against expertise -- from climate science to economic analysis -- is coming from the same crowd who think Sen. Duh-Mint is a luminary hero for petulantly refusing to attend Obama's jobs speech, and herald Bachmann for saying she'll shut down the EPA.

There's no thought behind it, it's just frustrated people with little information seeing rebellion of any kind against the things that confuse them as a noble move.

In this state, they don't want education or even policy that makes sense, they want a characature (Lee, DeMint, Bachmann, Paul) to rally behind who will fight whatever they've decided is the cause of all of their problems.

Don't challenge them with your uppity thinkin' and 'splainin', just tell them how you're going to prank the high school principal and get all the math classes canceled.

And these people are the most likely to answer public opinion polls.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jobs Speeches vs. Jobs Plans

Crossposted at MyDD.

I'm on board with those upset over the infuriating optics of the President asking for a speech, Republicans shouting we don't wanna, and the President backing downAgain.  First reaction, for some reason it riled me more than Democrats rolling over in the debt-ceiling debate.  Second, the win here was nil, save a few -- admittedly too rare -- headlines like "The President Actually Tells Republicans No."

Republicans don't want to detract from their debate.  Fine.  The President shouldn't want to detract from that debate either.  It's Rick Perry's big moment, and smart money says that's comedy gold.  No one outside the beltway is going to care about the reschedule, or who looks like the adult in the room by next week.

In fact the speech itself will be a minor blip on the radar compared to any jobs plan itself, if -- a big if -- the President gets real.  AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, via LA Times:
Who knows what's politically achievable until we try?" Trumka said. "The president should articulate a solution of the size and scale necessary to solve the problem. We have a jobs crisis. … If you do only what you think the other side and the 'tea party' will agree to, then they control the agenda." 
[...]
For those worried about the deficit, Trumka insists that job creation and deficit reduction go hand in hand.
"They complement one another," he said. "You want to get rid of the deficit? Put 25 million people back to work and you won't have a deficit problem."
Trumka gives the Times a detailed plan worth reading, but the point here is behind the details: Set the bar on a jobs plan as high as you can, and use that as a starting point.

Just like was said in the stimulus debates.  And the health care debates.  And the Bush Tax Cuts debates.  And the debt ceiling "debates."  And...

Republicans will oppose and roll out the hyperbole cannons, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann will say dumb things.   But economically this is a chance to set an agenda and begin addressing an actual problem.  Politically this is the Democrats' last chance before the 14 month circus is in full swing to reset the narrative ceded the teaGOP.

Voters have already reset, Republicans have shown their hand with Bush's Cantor's jobs plan deregulatory orgy which managed to be even more sucktastic than his last "jobs" plan.  It's not going to take a committee to find a more popular and effective first step:
Over much of the 20th century, America's strong infrastructure investment was a major factor attracting global corporations headquartered in other countries to invest and create jobs here. Rising U.S. standards of living were fueled by a strong infrastructure system that facilitated the growth of companies in America, both global and domestic alike: transportation systems to move people and products, electrical systems to power plants and offices, communications backbones to drive computers and creativity. By 2008, the U.S. subsidiaries of foreign companies employed over 5.6 million Americans -- nearly 2 million in manufacturing -- and exported $232.4 billion in goods. That's 18.1% of America's total.
(h/t Think Progress)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting Texas Wrong

Yesterday on #utpol a discussion errupted about TX Gov. Rick Perry's jobs "miracle," with several people were pointing to Irrational Optimist's Matthias Shapiro's breakdown of the numbers at PoliticalMath as proof of Perry's claims.  While Matthias deserves credit for pointing out Perry (or any governor for that matter) had little to do with Texas job markets, he first serves up a very lazy and incomplete analysis to say that everything is, indeed, rosy in Texas. 

His four main conclusions, and why they're wrong...

Unemployment Rate. Matthias: Even at 8.2%, Texas has performed better than other states, and in fact has a ballooned unemployment rate due to increased migration.  The Whole Story: Actually, he got this one.  But his analysis goes downhill from here.  Read on.  Also worth noting: Massachusetts and New York mirror the Texas rate and pre/post recession trend, and Nevada is seeing the complete opposite effect due to exodus.

Low wages? Matthias: No. Median income $15 (28th, nationally), and fast wage growth post recession, so everything's super.  The Whole Story: Median income isn't an accurate indicator, especially in "top heavy" Texas. Median income in Texas is skewed by a uniquely large gap between high skill workers (oil engineers, for example) with salaries well above national averages, and hourly wage workers (service industry, retail, etc) well below.  According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics -- the same place Matthias gets his median numbers -- service industry salaries in Texas fall 10.3 - 13% below the national average, and nearly 10% of these workers are at or below minimum wage.  That leaves Texas tied for the top spot in the nation for population making nothing more than minimum wage.  While this may attract business chasing cheap labor to the state, it hardly positions Texas as a solid wage mecca as Matthias concludes.

Unique Energy Sector "Boost"? Matthias: No. Even if you take the energy sector out, Texas job market is growing fast.  The Whole Story:  What?  Matthias displays here the ancient axiom that being a (self professed) whiz at math doesn't give you an edge in common sense. The energy sector in Texas has dwindled greatly since the 1980's, but it still brings with it supporting sub-sectors that are themselves substantial chunks of the market makeup of the state.  Short:  Energy sector employees eat lunch, buy toothpaste, get their cars fixed, go to movies, shop at malls... you know, all the things that you do in your average day with your money.  Even Shorter: Vernal, UT, without an energy industry, is a road sign and a porta-potty (some will argue it's not much more than that now, but you get my point).  It's impossible to conclude that without the energy industry there would be the same rate of growth in Texas.  Im.  Poss. Ible.  To use an example Matthias himself will understand:  Say you have a two foot tall column of pennies that represent your state's job market, each penny dependent on the one below and above for stability.  You decide to grab a fistful in the middle of the column and just yank them out.  The result?  Pennies everywhere.  You simply wouldn't see the same productivity in Texas without the energy sector, and in mid-recession Texas this sector was booming.

Texas Jobs # Inflated by Public Sector?  Matthias: Nope. Public sector grown 70,000.  High but not off the charts.  The Whole Story:  Texas workforce commission reports:
Dec 2007 - 1,781,000 jobs
May 2010 - 1,920,000 jobs
Net increase: 140,000.  While Matthias is right +70,000 public sector jobs is the number now, why ignore the much higher number just one year earlier? Well, my friends, because that number is off the charts.  And in the end it has to do with those tangential job market relationships again.  Just as energy jobs have their supporting industries, so too the public sector.  With the loss of 1/2 of these public sector jobs in just the last year, it's likely that supporting industries are -- as is typical -- slow to respond, but sure to respond (in fact, they're already seeing it), but Matthias would have you believe reaching this high water mark had no effect on the job market then and ongoing.  He's wrong.

And there's one final glaring omission from the Political Math post: $11 billion of stimulus spending in 2009 alone, in addition to federal $ for infrastructure projects.  I'm sure he just forgot to mention it.

Finally, relish Gov. Perry touting the notion which Republicans and teabaggers have labored against for oh so long: government does, indeed, create jobs.  Texas -- though obviously not the jobs "miracle" Matthias, Gov. Perry, Erickson, and NRO would have you believe -- is sitting in a better spot than all but two other states.  How?  Immigration, consumer protection (housing), and government spending.  They balanced the budget with fed money, spent fed money, and cut taxes amidst that government optimized spending, while taking nothing away from the people, at least at the same time (Texas has a few health care and education funding challenges... but that's another post).  Yay, Keynes!  And Perry will be campaigning against all of this while seeking the TeaGOP nomination.  

Some other great reads on this:  Kevin Drum, Yglesias, Wall Street Journal, and David Dayden.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Mittens! Chilean UI Privatization Scheme

I don't expect privatizing unemployment insurance to get much traction, just Mittens! throwing Koch Bros. red meat to the Bachmann lovin' crowd in Ames. But it's worth taking a look at the consequences of the "ideas" that Romney is willing to sign onto to head up the GOP trainwreck:

A couple of quick thoughts on this. First, the whole thing is yet another way to wrest workers' safety nets away and hand them to Wall Street. Can you imagine being a worker with money in these accounts and having it subject to the whims of these markets? Please. And second, the Chilean model purports to get those "deadbeats" back to work, but there is absolutely no evidence it decreases the unemployment rate or protects workers. None. All it does is create a situation where a worker will do whatever they can with no job security or benefits simply to make ends get closer to each other even if they don't actually meet. It was started in 2002. In 2009, Chile's poverty rate rose for the very first time in 23 years. And guess what? It was attributable to joblessness and the global economic crisis. Oh, and here's some more detail on Chile and the student protests over student debt, access to education, and income disparity from yesterday. Ah, yes, the Great Conservative Experiment.

Guess that didn't work out so well for them.




Sunday, August 7, 2011

Destabilizers and Laying Blame

Crossposted at MyDD.

Set aside S&P's credibility problems and their $2 Trillion oopsie (also, somewhat credible defenses from Ezra Klein and Felix Salmon), and what they're saying is we don't care exactly how you do it, as long as everyone agrees to do it for longer than the next election cycle.  Cuts are super, no revenue increases = unrealistic, and someone we aren't serious enough to name specifically used the prospect of default as a bargaining chip, and that's just crazy.

The reasons for the downgrade, in a nutshell: dysfunctional politics.  And NYU's Jay Rosen nails it in a tweet:
If we are to credit S & P's clear thinking, as says, then the opinion should have read: the Republicans destabilized the system.
But saying that directly in a report that could (probably not) further weaken the US economy would be uncivil! Let's just dance around it, fan the flames of dysfunction, and scurry back before Goldman Sachs yells at us again.

In the end, the downgrade may be useful in elevating a legitimate point from progressive circles to, oh, say, the White House and Senate Dems:  The House of Representatives is held hostage by a pack of simple minded zealots who don't give two shits about governance, economics, or reality. The Daily Beast profiles 19 freshmen who'd like to see it all burn:
If there is one thing clear from the Tea Party caucus’ first triumph, it is that its members don’t adhere to Washington convention or care about public sentiment. The greater the criticism, the more they stiffen. Their singular focus is collapsing the size of government, at any cost.
No tactic is too extreme, no issue too small (debt-ceiling votes used to be routine before they came to Washington), and no offer of a federal project for their district or a glitzy committee assignment can lure them from the stubborn line they intend to hold against spending.
“So you’re sitting down with [Speaker] Boehner and [House Majority Leader] Cantor, and they’re offering you stuff for a vote,” Walsh, the Illinois Republican, recalls. “They can help you and do some things, you know, committee assignments and help moving up the chain.
“But whew,” he says, making a whistling sound and sweeping his hand over his head. “You’re talking beyond me. I just don’t care.”
Calling this a mere lack of adherance to "Washington convention" is like calling Charlie Manson a "free thinker."  It's clear, for what it's worth, that S&P puts a lot of the reason for the downgrade on a handful of lawmakers with a near-religious fidelity to an American history they've re-imagined in their own image.  It's not just that the President shouldn't be open to negotiating with the lowest common demoninators, it's that you can't negoatiate with them, and they rule the GOP. 
 
Also via Tweet, Robert Reich sees a way around it for Obama:
Mr President: Put forth bold jobs plan, challenge Rs to support it, and if they refuse make it center of your 2012 campaign.
Keyword: bold.  Drew Westen writes today that the President's problem is messaging.  He didn't tell a story with clearly defined villains, Westen says.  I agree.  But while the blame for the downgrade itself may be clear, blame for the situation right now should be spread on Democrats across the board.  More from the Daily Beast:
This time the geometry of triangulation is different. Obama is hunkered in one corner with House and Senate Democrats, who are increasingly alienated by the president’s willingness to compromise with the conservative wing of the GOP.
House and Senate Democrats are alienated?  Valid criticism -- and important going forward -- but Democratic lawmakers get a pass now considering their track record and the Legislative Meh they've served up again and again?  The POTUS and Democratic lawmakers shoulder the blame for the 2010 outcome.  Sure the story could have been better told by Obama. Also true, legislative agendas under a Democratic majority haven't lent themselves well to defining a compelling narrative. For every legislative success there is a contradicting backstory.  For every bold challenge, a walk back.  Where's the inspiration in running away from a pre-election Bush Tax Cut fight? Where's the vision in letting Max Bacchus wander health care reform through the woods for months?  NYT's Timothy Egan wrote in August 2010, foretelling Democratic losses, "[Democrats] have been terrible at trying to explain who they stand for and the larger goal of their governance."

The public has long been soured on the tea party, even in conservative meccas.  They support tax reforms and increased contributions from the nation's most wealthy.  They've cooled on the overly-simplistic Republican slogans and warmed to blaming them for failure to solve our country's problems.  They want Social Security and Medicare strengthened not shredded.

Now if they could only find a party that stood for those things!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Jobs Report and the Age of Austerity

Crossposted at MyDD.

Republican voters are more sour on the debt deal than Democrats, and Nate Silver says polls show House Republicans owning the debt ceiling deal, creating an opportunity for Obama:
Voters’ Pavlovian reaction may simply be that fiscal austerity equals pain, which could complicate Republican messaging in the long-run.
In the short-run — depending on what happens with the markets over the next several trading days as well as with tomorrow morning’s jobs report — the question becomes whether Mr. Obama attempts to exploit the crisis by calling for stimulative measures that were lacking in the deal he signed with Republicans.
And speaking of that job's report for July: Hiring increases, expectations don't.  Via NPR, Brookings' William Dickens isn't impressed:
The July report also revised figures for the two previous months. The economy added 53,000 in May, up from an earlier estimate of 25,000; and 46,000 in June, up from 18,000.
Even so, the economy expanded at a meager 0.8 percent annual rate in the first half of the year, the slowest pace since the recession officially ended in 2009. Those figures, combined with financial troubles in the eurozone in recent days, have ratcheted up talk of a double-dip recession and put markets on edge in the past week.
"If Europe gets its act together and we don't have any more brinkmanship in the political arena here, I can see us just limping through without a double-dip recession," Dickens said.
Surely we've seen the end of "brinkmanship" hostage taking.  Dickens argues that the Fed is out of options, but Dean Baker says not so quick:
... the Fed could pursue a path that Bernanke himself had advocated for Japan when he was still a Princeton professor. It could target a higher rate of inflation, for example 4 percent. This would have the effect of reducing real interest rates. It would also lower the debt burden of homeowners, which could allow them to spend more money.
That could relieve some pressure on consumers, but the numbers today are still a little good news in a sea of bad.  Private sector growth is almost -- but not entirely -- negating public sector cut backs.  Until something different than what we're doing is done, we'll be applauding "not as bad as it could have been" right into the double dip and President Mittens!/Bachmann/Perry's first term.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Recess Appointments?

Crossposted at MyDD.

Jonathan Bernstein says it could help the President's credibility.

I argued over at the Plum Line yesterday that Barack Obama should fight back against Republican obstruction by making a recess appointment right now, even though House Republicans are preventing a proper recess through procedural gimmickry, and even though George W. Bush respected precedent and did not make any recess appointments when Senate Democrats used similar tactics in 2007-2008 (details there, and in this earlier post; see also Ari Berman's arguments). The argument I made over there, which I think is a reasonable one, is that there's a huge difference between action to block appointments taken by a majority of the Senate compared to action taken by the House, which has no Constitutional role in confirmations.
Bernstein argues that a handful of recess appointments despite creative House GOP obstruction could lend credence to Obama's willingness to fight back, without much takeaway from the "reasonable one" image he seems obsessed with maintaining above all else.

Simply put, House Republicans will squawk, and Obama could use recess appointments to show he isn't afraid of that.  In March 2010 he made 15 recess appointments to "send a message" to Republicans to stop stalling. Confirmations to offices at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp, Office of the Comptroller, commerce secretary, a long list of federal judicial positions and of course the director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau are still held up by what amounts to a procedural farce.

Both Clinton and Bush Jr. made more than 100 recess appointments each, despite facing less opposition from the Senate.  Today's Republicans have made it clear they'll stall for two full terms if they can.  And as Bernstein points out, this is the House holding things up now, not the Senate.

It's hard to see what the President is waiting for.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Debt ceiling deal reached, catastrophe "averted"

Crossposted at MyDD.

Unless Boehner demands more (he is) of the everything he's already getting, it looks like the debt ceiling deal is in the bag. Voting expected in a few hours.

Brad DeLong and Yglesias forgo the not surprising -- if depressing -- details of the deal to ponder the biggest loser here: governance.
... whenever the desires of the president conflict with the desires of the speaker of the House, the president has little leverage. Any speaker who does not fear disaster can roll any president. In this future, any bill that a speaker insists is must-pass gets attached to a debt-ceiling increase, and--unless there are people in the Senate equally willing to risk disaster, which is unlikely because senators are status-quo players too--so becomes law.
It's like a parliamentary system, with the debt-ceiling votes filling the role of votes of confidence.
Ezra Klein says don't worry, Democrats.  You're the self-appointed losers again, but you could accidentally win as we're baking the welcome cakes for President Romney.
On Dec. 31, 2012, three weeks before the end of President Barack Obama’s current term in office, the Bush tax cuts expire. Income tax rates will return to their Clinton-era levels. That amounts to a $3.6 trillion tax increase over 10 years, three or four times the $800 billion to $1.2 trillion in revenue increases that Obama and Speaker John Boehner were kicking around. And all Democrats need to do to secure that deal is...nothing.
This scenario is the inverse of the current debt-ceiling debate, in which inaction will lead to an outcome -- a government default -- that Democrats can’t stomach and Republicans think they can. There is only one thing that could stand in the way of Democrats passing significant new revenues on the last day of 2012: the Obama administration.
Until then, brace yourself for increased state contraction thanks to all this Teanomic "compromise," and -- of course -- triggers:
Revenues, in other words, won't be forbidden by the deal, but will be an uphill climb. Some Democrats think they have added leverage because if Republicans pull such a trigger, it will provide them with a helpful message going into the next election: Republicans were so unwilling to end egregious tax loopholes and breaks for millionaires, that they triggered devastating cuts to domestic and defense programs. Levin doesn't really buy it.
Levin's a smart guy.

Meanwhile,
We have had a non-declining 9% plus unemployment very low interest rate economy for two years now. And the employment-to-population ratio has not moved. Something about the future must be different from the recent past in order to get it to move upward. Starting in 1994 it was the dot-com boom that pulled us out of that jobless recovery. Starting in 2004 it was the housing boom that pulled us out of that jobless recovery. What is going to pull us out of this jobless recovery? I don't see it yet.
In my view the chance that the unemployment rate will be 9% or higher at the end of 2012 has just crossed 50%, heading upward.
Yay compromise!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Impervious to Facts

Crossposted at MyDD

Dean Baker wants to know if Thomas Friedman is impervious to facts.

The evidence suggests that he is. He gives yet another of his diatribes about the need to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security in order to advance his grand agenda for the country. Of course Social Security is financed by its own designated tax and is projected to be fully solvent for the next quarter century, so it is a bit bizarre to have this one on the list.
The Facts: The most pessimistic projections say Social Security isn't a deficit creator until 2037.  Current budget problems are the result of a housing bubble and, as Baker also points out, ongoing budget problems are (still) the result of a broken health care system and our solitary substantial investment of the past decade: war.

While the villagers clutch their pearls searching for the most creative plan to gut the social safety net, Republicans struggle to hold themselves together having won a majority by electing screaming ideologues, Democrats scramble to not screw the debt ceiling standoff up entirely, and the President does his best to reinforce 30 years of conservative deficit dogma, it's worth keeping one thing in perspective:

Our national discussion has become a national distraction, and it's sure to carry over into the 2012 campaigns.  No one is debating real solutions to actual problems.

Also: Jobs.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Minnesota GOP and the Tim Pawlenty School of Finance

Crossposted at MyDD

Looks like Minnesota Republican Party leaders are graduates.  Deluth News Tribune (h/t Bluestem Praire)

“We have about 20 counties left to go,” GOP Chairman Tony Sutton said. “We have been chipping away on them.”

Sutton estimated that the party could finish paying its recount bills within four weeks. He said about $20,000 remains to be paid.

“It is about managing all the bills we have,” Sutton said.
The chairman answered questions about the issue Monday following a letter Sen. John Howe, R-Red Wing, sent to Republican legislative colleagues suggesting they contribute to pay the bills, although in an interview he thought just $3,000 to $4,000 remained.
The money owed to the counties comes from the state Republicans' love of recounts, the most recent in the governor's race last fall.  Democrat Mark Dayton was ahead just under 8,000 votes before the recount, 9,000 after.  (Unpaid) Money well spent, huh?

The MN GOP appears to have learned the IOU bill pay method from one of the best: Former Governor himself, Tim Pawlenty.
Tim Pawlenty left us with a balanced budget that included a variety of IOU's. IOU's on the scale that no other governor in Minnesota has ever done.

First, there is the $1.4 to $1.6 billion that we still owe the school districts from the Pawlenty unallotment. I really enjoyed the banter from candidate Tom Emmer during the campaign in which he said they would hold education harmless. Equally brazen is the rhetoric from House Education chair Pat Garofalo and how proud he is of the House education budget. Neither of them has ever had any intention of finding a way to pay that money back, while schools borrow and pay interest to make up the difference. This IOU has become locked in so heavily that even Governor Dayton sees no path to repayment during the current biennium.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

2012 Voters Turning "Inward"

Crossposted at MyDD.

Sabato on the prospect of a  "bin Laden" bump for Obama/Democrats in 2012?

[...] the killing of bin Laden, as ordered by a Democratic president, gives Democrats a convenient and easy-to-understand answer whenever challenged by Republicans on national security: “Republicans had seven years under George W. Bush to get bin Laden. They failed. Democrats got him in a little over two.”
That potentially powerful argument may mean a lot when the country inevitably refocuses on national security in some future election. But whether it matters much for next year’s presidential election, when the focus will likely remain on the economy, is very much an open question.
This week Pew released their Political Typology report, which concludes voters -- especially swing voters -- aren't paying as much attention.  In 2005, military strength vs. diplomacy was the question dividing voters clearly on partisan lines, with disafecteds and undecideds left to pick a side.  The new report shows that while there is still a split on that issue, it's primarily between Republican subsets not Democrats and Republicans. The majority of voters have turned "inward."  Blumenthal:
As the report explains in more detail, we see even less division among the groups on a variety of foreign policy and national security issues, including the war in Afghanistan, the use of force in Libya, the trade-offs between privacy and safety from terrorism and the role of foreign trade.
What now divides the party groups more clearly are attitudes about the efficiency and worthiness of government and the social safety network. These are also the issues now most likely to create cross-pressure on true swing voters. For example, 45 percent of the Democratic-leaning Post Moderns worry that "government is almost always wasteful and inefficient," while 61 percent of the Republican-leaning Disaffecteds agree that "the government should do more to help needy Americans, even it if means going deeper into debt."
National security never fully leaves the equation, but any role it plays in 2012 will boost Democrats, and Republicans will shy away from the issue entirely.  Swing voters will be busy pondering the value of Social Security, Medicare, and the health of the economy.

Probably why we're seeing Republicans run away from Paul Ryan's budget -- which all but 6 House Republicans voted for -- as fast as they can.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

#GRAMA and New Media: A (Too) Simple Solution?

One of the challenges for the GRAMA working group has been how to handle "new media" like Facebook and Twitter in the confines and principles of a sound open records law.

Using Facebook as the central point for understanding the question, here are some examples of the challenges that I think illustrate both the complexity of new media, as well as the (possibly) obvious simple solutions that don't take the teeth out of transparency policies.

  • Interactive posting.
  • Archival process.
  • Private messaging options.
Interactive posting. Most Utah lawmaker and city pages are interactive (i.e. anyone can comment or post to the page wall, not just the page owner). Are all comments and even wall posts from the public considered a record?  A simple solution would be to disable the interactivity, but does that defeat the purpose of elected officials and government agencies using Facebook in the first place? 

Archival process.  For the most part, archiving is not up to the state of Utah, or any governing body.  Even if Facebook functioned in a way today (it doesn't) that made automated archiving possible, that could change tomorrow, and those decisions will be made by Facebook with business factors in mind, not government transparency concerns.  It wouldn't be much to ask that -- on a regular basis -- cities, lawmakers, and agencies simply cut an paste wall/comment content into an email for archiving, but what about private messages and Facebook chats, which aren't logged by Facebook indefinitely?

Private messaging.  Direct messages on Twitter, one-to-one Facebook messages, and chats, again, could easily be manually archived, but that process would be widely unreliable, and is, again, dependent on what these third party companies decide to do going forward.  We could develop an intricate procedure today, and next week, Twitter could make a change that renders any automated state process unusable.  An obvious solution here would be a "best practices" policy (i.e. "Hey Senator... Don't private message"), but checks would be "on your honor," so not much different than the situation now, without addressing new media specifically within the GRAMA law itself.

With these three challenges in mind what is the solution?  Considering that any constraints must also be weighed against discouraging agencies and lawmakers from using new media entirely -- something I believe would be a detriment to access in exchange for no significant guarantee of transparency -- how does Utah embrace new communication and interactive tools and still ensure a valuable level of public confidence in a transparent process?

What if the solution is as simple as accepting that when it comes to new media, no open records law -- no matter how aggressive -- is going to ensure everything is on record?  The law could simply require agencies and elected officials to use a dedicated, already archived and recorded email address (.gov) as the contact on any Facebook or Twitter account activity, which would give you an automated record of at least one side of the conversations, and organizations from the legislature to city offices could institute a "best practices" training for officials on a regular basis.  Maybe even throw in a "disclaimer" of sorts that reads: "Anything you do on Facebook or Twitter is fair game.  Anything retrieved by the media/public isn't protected as private under this law"?

In short, new media will always offer an option for private, undocumented exchanges (I have 11 apps on my phone that would allow me to do that right now).  Is it worth banning the use of such media for lawmakers to do away with the risk?  I say no.

But there are simple steps that can be taken to keep their use as transparent as possible, without taking new media completely off the table as either completely private, or completely unused by state government.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Hand Over Your Medicare, or the Government Gets It!

Crossposted at MyDD.

As both parties have fingers in the wind for a sign of who might own a potential shutdown, I can't think of anything more tone deaf than releasing, simultaneously, a budget proposal phasing out Medicare, and shifting the marginal tax rate burden further onto the middle class.

But that's just what Republicans have done.  Ed Kilgore:

So TV viewers tonight are going to see Republicans ecstatic about Ryan's radical budget and Tea Partiers--despite the tips-from-the-coach offered by Bachmann--chanting for a government shutdown. Sure, most rank-and-file Republicans will see nothing wrong with this scenario, but elsewhere, the public is likely to deduce that the "savings" congressional GOPers are demanding are about something more fundamental than subsidies for Big Bird or the exact level of cuts.
Ryan's proposal got the go ahead from leadership because it was red meat for the teabaggers.  I'd bet they thought, just like in Ryan's first whack at screwing the middle class via "serious proposal" a year ago, they could stir up the Randian base, and wave it off in front of saner voters as just a discussion of ideas, a pondering of options, a party searching for it's identity.

But by wasting their first few months as a governing majority with a predictable attack on NPR funding, anti-choice posturing, and training the freshmen not to sound like secessionists on CNN, they've staved off any real discussion around policy withing their own ranks.  And when they finally have it, they ensure that the "budget" showdown and Rep. Paul Ryan's "budget" proposal get simultaneous headlines, and connection in the public mind as one "budget" fight.

As in: We'll shut this whole thing down -- closing your parks, furloughing public workers, and delaying tax return checks -- unless you hand over your Medicare!

This genius strategy had every Democrat within sprinting distance of a microphone or camera rushing to comment in a rare display of messaging control.

Considering the buyers' remorse already hanging over Republican governors settling in in the midwest, and most of the freshmen Republicans campaigning in 2010 on defending Medicare against Obama's health care reform, I don't see how they reel this albatross back in.

Welcome to the 2012 campaign, folks.  Entertainment provided by John Boehner's House.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Redistricting Committee Announced

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 6, 2011


UTAH LEGISLATIVE REDISTRICTING COMMITTEE ANNOUNCED

SALT LAKE CITY -- Today, the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate announced the makeup of Utah's Redistricting Committee.

House members on the committee will include:

* Chairman Rep. Ken Sumsion, R-American Fork
* Rep. Curt Webb, R-Logan
* Rep. Gage Froerer, R-Huntsville
* Rep. Roger Barrus, R-Centerville
* Rep. Brian King, D-Salt Lake City
* Rep. Jackie Biskupski, D-Salt Lake City
* Rep. Todd Kiser, R-Sandy
* Rep. Merlynn Newbold, R-South Jordan
* Rep. Mel Brown, R-Coalville
* Speaker Becky Lockhart, R-Provo
* Rep. Francis Gibson, R-Spanish Fork
* Rep. Christine Watkins, D-Price
* Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George

Senate members on the committee will include:

* Chairman Senator Ralph Okerlund, R-Monroe
* Senator Gene Davis, D-Salt Lake City
* Senator Ben McAdams, D-Salt Lake City
* Senator Stuart Reid, R-Ogden
* Senator Kevin Van Tassell, R-Vernal
* President Michael Waddoups, R-Taylorsville

The committee will start work this month. They will draw maps and host a series of public hearings statewide in the months that follow. We anticipate that the Governor will call a special session in late summer or fall to allow the full Legislature to consider the new state maps.

The redistricting committee will draw boundaries for the State Board of Education, Utah House of Representatives, Utah State Senate, and the Utah congressional delegation, which now includes -- 10 years late -- our fourth seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

In the last decade, Utah's population grew from 2,233,169 to 2,763,885. In 2001 the ideal population of a Utah House District was 29,776 (total population divided by 75). The ideal population of a senate district was 77,006 (total population divided by 29). To adhere to the principle of equal representation, and given the new population numbers, the boundaries now need to be adjusted so house districts include 36,852 people and senate districts include 95,306.

The public is encouraged to get involved in the process by participating in public hearings and using online technology - soon to be accessible on the legislative website - that wasn't widely available a decade ago. Interested citizens will be able to listen in, work on their own map proposals, and track the progress of the committee's work at www.le.utah.gov.

# # #


NOTES:

1. You can see the exact numbers by which each Utah House and Senate district needs to expand or contract in the PDF files, attached.

2. You can find information on the RFP for an Internet Based Redistricting Solution here: http://le.utah.gov/lrgc/rfp.internetbasedredistricting.html

3. A plethora of information from the 2001 redistricting process is archived here:
http://le.utah.gov/Interim/2001/html/2001sperdt.htm

4. Senate Leadership discussed redistricting with the press in late February. Listen to the audio clips here: http://www.senatesite.com/home/redistricting/

5. The State Board of Education recently posted redistricting info here: http://utahpubliceducation.org/2011/03/23/redistricting-will-redraw-utah-state-board-of-education-districts/


CONTACTS:

Joe Pyrah
Chief Deputy of the House
801-903-0955
joepyrah@utah.gov
http://www.utah.gov/house/index.html

Ric Cantrell
Chief Deputy of the Senate
801-647-8944
rcantrell@utahsenate.org
http://www.utahsenate.org

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

#GRAMA Work Group: Week Two

I want to give a quick shout out to The Sunlight Foundation here, they've been amazingly helpful in researching open government policy around the country to see how other states are handling changing technology.

Our second meeting as a work group tasked with "bringing GRAMA into the 21st century" kicks off at 9am today at the Senate Building.  I'll be tweeting, and you can follow along via the #GRAMA hashtag, and @GRAMArevisited, the official Twitter stream for the work group. I'll update this post afterward with more info from the meeting. 

The Senate Site has more:

The SECOND MEETING of the GRAMA Group is set for Wednesday at 9 a.m. in Senate Building Room 210. This is an informal working group, but we’ll live stream and do what we can to make it open and inclusive.

Audio stream here. Requires RealPlayer. Sorry.

And the live stream embed:


Free video chat by Ustream

SCOTUS Returns to Politics and Money

Crossposted at MyDD.

Just over a year after the Citizens United ruling, the Supreme Court is about to delve into politics and money again, this time taking up the constitutionality of Arizona's public finance system for state candidates:
The subsidy system that the Justices are now ready to review was, in fact, believed to be a reform measure when Arizona’s voters narrowly approved it (by a 51-49 percent margin) in a statewide initiative in 1998.  After a series of scandals over financing of state campaigns, resulting, among other woes, in criminal prosecution of two governors and a number of state legislators, voters went to the polls to vote on a measure titled the “Clean Elections Act.” Backers promoted the Act with a pamphlet arguing that the Act would free politicians to represent the public’s interest, and not just the interests of those who gave large contributions to their campaigns.  The pamphlet tied the Act directly to the recent scandals, saying that the cycle of campaign finance abuse had seemed endless.
The Act went into effect in 2000, and as many as two-thirds of state candidates thereafter have opted into the subsidy system.  The system was used in every state election after 2000 — until the elections of last November, after the system had been blocked by a temporary vote of the Supreme Court last June 8.
The "Clean Elections Act" is complicated -- but not unwieldy -- to understand, especially when you dig into various trigger and counter-trigger mechanisms enacted by the campaign sending choices of wealthy self-funded candidates.  But that's not where those challenging the law are focused.  Both proponents and opponents of the law are making a similar argument: this is about free speech.
Opponents aim at a specific trigger mechanism in which a candidate can ask for a subsidy if a self-financed opponent's (including independent "supporting groups") spending reaches a certain level, arguing this would encourage a self-financed candidate to keep their spending below that ceilling, "limiting" their free speech.  Proponents of the law argue this mechanism levels the playing field fairly.  Self-funded candidates are still free to out spend, but as they do, their opponents qualify for (but aren't forced to request) additional (but not equal in dollar amount) subsidies.
In a follow up post, SCOTUSblog's Lyle Denniston points out that in Monday's oral arguments, at least one Justice is already foreshadowing the precarious future of the system:
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who definitely seems to hold the deciding vote on the newest test of the Supreme Court’s skepticism about campaign finance laws, made repeated comments on Monday suggesting that he is very wary of Arizona’s attempt to offset the impact of wealthy candidates paying their own way.  Among a variety that could be noted, no remark was more telling than what seemed almost to be a rhetorical question: “Do you think it would be a fair characterization of this law to say that its purpose and its effect are to produce less speech in political campaigns?”
I'm not informed enough on it to argue the Arizona model is a perfect or flawed system for better election process, but in Citizens United, the court declared it was "discriminatory" to limit "free speech" based on the "identity" of the spender.  I'd expect them to take the same position here ensuring another win for billionaires buying up elections.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

#GRAMA Work Group: Week One

A few quick, barely self-edited thoughts on the first GRAMA work group meeting today:

There seemed to be broad agreement that our focus should be on the existing GRAMA law, and not HB477.  This was encouraging.  The task of somehow turning HB477 into a good law is impossible.  Considering "bringing GRAMA into the 21st century" as a focus seems more reasonable.

On that point though, I found it odd to be discussing making changes to the existing open government law as if we've all agreed a case has been made for doing so.  Legislators have not made a compelling argument for minor updates, let alone sweeping changes likely to stand for the next two decades.  Reasons given amount to playing the victim (more on that below), and citing "fishing expeditions" without supplying evidence of any abuse that outweighs the importance of public confidence in an open, transparent process, and implications that the courts have over reached in interpreting GRAMA for the public good.  I would like to see more of a concrete argument (and evidence) for making any changes to GRAMA than those offered so far.

On the notion that legislators are the victims of Utah's open records laws, I offer: Buffalo Chips! Sen. Stuart Adams provided an example today of a GRAMA request of his emails.  He took issue over the fact that there were personal emails included, and though those emails weren't released, someone, somewhere read them.  Adams said he "felt" this was a violation of his 4th amendment rights.  An illegal search and seizure.  While I can sympathize with legislators having "feelings" (as I understand it, some of them do), this is a ridiculous point of contention with open records policy.  It amounts to wanting 1) private communications kept private and 2) no one getting to review records to determine what is private or in the public interest, except, I assume, the legislator responding to the request.  It's impossible to address Sen. Adams' "feelings" and have an open records law that will serve the public well.  Impossible.

That's not to say I don't sympathize.  Personally, this level of exposure would make me uncomfortable too.  And that is why I will never run for office.  But Sen. Adams did get himself elected, and now serves the people of Utah.  In the interest of public confidence in our governing agencies, lawmakers "feelings" should not rate higher than a transparency law with enough teeth to be effective.

Some great questions were thrown out today, and I literally can't wait to actually get into discussing some of the ideas and issues in depth.  But like I say, I'm worried about the tone set by lawmakers and this work group retaining credibility.  There are still a lot of valid questions unanswered on why the current set of transparency principles outlined in GRAMA are inadequate.

Sen. Pat Jones best framed what I think the umbrella focus of this group should be: Is it private until proven public, or public until proven private?

With all the talk today of "burden of proof," that's the money phrase.  Someone is going to own the burden of proof in any issue of public vs. private communication.  Legislators have not provided a convincing argument yet that that burden should fall on the public, the media, or non-profit advocacy groups to prove a need to access records of work done in our name.  If legislators want to shift that burden onto taxpayers, they're going to have to provide something more tangable than the way GRAMA requests leave them "feeling."

I'll post more on the 36 policy questions presented to the group today soon; great questions I'd like to hear your thoughts on before the group meets again next Wednesday.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Newt's Legacy: For the GOP it's not about representation

Crossposted at MyDD

John Sides links to a discussion on the breakdown of legislative norms, when debate in the House denigrates to a fight that has nothing to do with policy or problem solving or even reality.  Barry Pump traces the tactic (yes, tactic) back to Newt Gingrich and two hours of "schoolyard taunting and bullying" in 1984.
2. Gingrich prepares a massive speech attacking Democrats by name (such as former appropriations chairman Dave Obey of Wisconsin and former Oakland mayor Ron Dellums) and accusing them of spreading communist propaganda in the Speaker’s Lobby. He writes a letter notifying the Democrats that he was going to name check them, but the letter was not delivered in time for the Democrats to respond on the floor during Gingrich’s speech.

3. Gingrich gives the speech while most members have gone home for the weekend. Dellums says he was on a plane back to California when Gingrich was on the floor impugning his patriotism, and he didn’t find out about it until he landed.
Pump outlines in 10 steps how Gingrich attacks the patriotism of Democrats outside of legislative protocol "norms," elicits an angry response from Speaker Tip O'Neill -- who orders newly installed television cameras to pan, showing Gingrich speaking to an empty chamber, and calls Gingrich out of line -- and then plays the victim, claiming the speaker abused his position for criticizing him publicly.  Gingrich and his "young turks" brought the legislative process to a halt with hyperbolic antics.  The goal was no longer policy or ideological agenda, but simply majority status at any cost.  By the end of the 80's, the Republican Party was sold, and a 30 legislative strategy had begun.
By selecting the aggressive Gingrich over his mild-mannered rival, Illinois' Edward Madigan, House Republicans signaled that they want more lash in their whip. "We had a choice of being attack dogs or lapdogs," said a G.O.P. lawmaker. "We decided attack dogs are more useful."
Flash forward to the 112th Congress.

For all the hints at Boehner's lack of control as speaker after several unexpected failures, I wouldn't hold my breath.  This isn't an intra-party rebellion; this is just blip in party message control.  Leadership and the freshmen tea baggers won't part ways given a choice between governing or the perpetual campaign.  "Principles," half-baked or not, will be set aside faster than a Gingrich mistress when leadership reminds the newbies elections still happen, and even the slightest nod at actual problem solving is out the window when the newbies remind leadership they are all Newt spawn.

For Republicans, this hasn't been about governance or representation for a very, very long time.
From the poll tax to the literacy test, using the law to create a structure that systematically disenfranchises people unlikely to vote for you has a long tradition in America’s political warfare. The latest “anti-voter fraud” laws pushed by Republicans are hardly different. By taking away same-day registration and requiring photo IDs to vote, they are making it harder for traditionally Democratic-leaning groups — students, young people, the poor, and some minorities — to exercise their right to vote. The basic strategy is if you can’t win their vote, keep them from voting altogether. While these actions have gained publicity in Wisconsin, the same tactic is being pushed by the GOP in places like Kansas and New Hampshire.
To the GOP it's a decades long war to be won and the ends will justify any means.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Cherilyn Eagar Will Save Us All (Send Her Money! UN! Mexicans! Arglebargle!)

One of the greatest misuses of the phrase "common sense" I've seen in a long time.  In the inbox:



The U.N. Agenda for Immigration
How Utah is adopting that agenda through HB 116
Last week a group of women from Eagle Forum accompanied me to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women Conference.  (More on that event to come.)

A few of us unintentionally attended a session hosted by the U.N. University addressing immigration.  The presenters and many in the audience hold the position that immigration policy should embrace the concept of the free flow of migrant movement across borderless nation states.

It was suggested that a person should be able to set foot on American soil one day and run for political office the next.   Your contribution is needed now so that we can continue to fight for our freedom.  Today.

Correction
My previous message today addressed the Utah legislature's action to embrace amnesty and how it will endanger all 50 states if the governor signs the bill.  What has been unspoken in the debate is Utah's role in either knowingly or unknowingly contributing to the incremental movement toward open borders, global governance and the end of sovereignty that the U.N. openly supports.

I am now in D.C. and have just learned that the Utah amnesty bill is still on Utah Governor Gary Herbert's desk.  Please contact him ASAP to let him know that the United States does not want Utah to become the magnet for more illegal aliens, which is the history of amnesty.  The history of guest worker programs is that 40% of them overstay their visas and then become part of the illegal landscape.

Guest Workers?
Don't be deceived.  A guest worker program cannot be implemented safely until the borders are secured!  What message is Utah giving illegal aliens?  "Come to America illegally, use illegal documents and in 16 years you too will  be granted amnesty."  This gives them time to use your children's social security numbers fraudulently and then be given a pass before it is discovered who those social security numbers really belong to.  This is a farce. 


Contact Utah's Governor Gary Herbert.
If you are a Utah delegate and oppose this measure, contact Brandon Beckham immediately.  A meeting with the governor is being organized today.  BrandonCBeckham@gmail.com

3S HB116 was pushed through the Utah State House of Representatives late Friday.  By show of hands, most of them had not even read the bill!  Please contact Governor Herbert’s office today and let him know that until the border is secured, we want enforcement only.

Contact all three:
Andrea Hansenandreahansen@utah.gov (Governor’s secretary)
Governor Gary Herbert gherbert@utah.gov
Lt. Gov.Greg Bell gregbell@utah.gov

Cut & paste in the bcc line for your convenience:  andreahansen@utah.gov, gherbert@utah.gov,  gregbell@utah.gov

Call the Governor’s office at 801.538.1000. 

Learn more about the outrageous consequences of this bill.  Click here.


[SNIP: Rambles on about American Leadership fund, Mexican terrorists a bit more]

Thank you for your help.

Faithfully,

Cherilyn Eagar
Director, American Leadership Fund
Coalition on Illegal Immigration

Saturday, March 5, 2011

HB477: They Did It for the Legislators! (And that's why it was wrong)

Rep. John Dougall, (R - Giant Hypocrite)
Last night, via the Senate Site, an explanation of the fast-tracked, little discussed, and transparency defeating HB477, passed by the House and Senate both with little opposition. Read the whole thing yourself, but outside of anecdotal cost examples (which could be addressed numerous ways, with much more respect for the public trust), and a notion of protecting private information in legislative communications (which I would argue does not, and should not trump public confidence in an open, transparent government), it seems they "did it for the legislators!"  And that is exactly why it was wrong.

Our elected officials are entrusted with representing us, and often seem to forget that they work for us, not their own claim to power.  But more of a travesty  here is a disrespect for the role of the media.  The media, more so than any elected official, are a true extension of the people.

If there is indeed an over-reach by the media (keep in mind no legitimate example of such has been given) in the use of GRAMA, that is a necessary evil, and there are, again, far better options -- some that would take advantage of the very technology legislators have expressed concern about -- than restricting public access to the governing process.  Utah legislators should feel obligated to err on the side of protecting that relationship between voters and lawmakers provided by an aggressive and attentive investigative media.

With HB477, legislators, led by Rep. John "Champion of Open Government" Dougall, and Senator Lyle "My Law Clients Come First" Hillyard, have instead erred on the side of protecting themselves.

My comment on the Senate Site post:
So far, legislators, primarily Dougall and Hillyard have provided only anecdotal “evidence” of the cost. And even if cost really is an issue, this is perhaps the least creative “fix” to that, and one that happens to not just “lose the PR” battle, but paints the legislature as making a judgment call on “worth” not so much as “cost.”

Outside of cost, Hillyard spent a lot of time in the media briefing and on the floor pointing out that clients sometimes email him at his legislative address. I understand that concern, and I even sympathize to an extent that our legislators who have jobs outside of their legislative duties. But what was so disappointing for me, listening to Hillyard, was his complete lack of personal responsibility. Senator, you are an elected official, charged with representing the people of Cache Valley, not just your law office clients. If your clients are emailing you at your Senate address, you (and only you) need to take responsibility for correcting that. It’s not — in any way shape or form — the responsibility of your constituents, who expect an open and transparent governing process.

Finally, I love the outreach from our legislature online. Especially that of the Senate body. But in effect, the way this has been handled, and the decisions leadership have made in how to begin a dialog -- implied by their “we’ll get back to this later” message to Utah’s media -- undermines that very outreach. Those of us who know legislators personally or interact to a greater degree during the legislative session may be able to see past this and watch for a continuing dialog, but for the general public busy with their daily lives, HB477 and the process by which it became law this week furthers the notion that their lawmakers are only telling them half of the story.

The point of “sunshine” or “open government” initiatives are not only good government, but a more engaged and less cynical public. With this process, and this bill, the Utah Legislature has done more to feed that cynicism than fight it. I am disappointed that Senator Hillyard would be more concerned about the “trials and tribulations” of legislators than the bigger picture of encouraging public faith in Utah’s institutions.
Not a proud day for Senator Hillyard, or the legislative process in Utah.

Now Governor Herbert has a choice.

Help him make it.
801-538-1000
800-705-2464
Fax 801-538-1528

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Herbert Misleads on Wilderness Policy

Governor Herbert testified yesterday alongside ID Gov Butch Otter, MT Rep/Senate candidate Denny Rehberg, attacking Secretary Salazar's December order that the US Dept. of Interior would (GASP!) begin enforcing existing policy, ignored under the "No More Wilderness" Bush-era agreement between the department and some western states.  Herbert:

"This order hinders rural economic development and hurts key funding sources for Utah's school children," Herbert said, noting that royalties from mineral development are a primary founding sources for Utah schools. 
Putting aside the obvious irony of a Utah Republican feigning concern for schoolchildren, I decided to look into how this new policy focus would negatively impact mineral development in Utah.  What I found:

It wouldn't.  At all. (But: LAND GRAB!!! Arglebargle!!!)

According to BLM data for western states, there is an average of 1 acre of wilderness land for every 42 leased for oil and gas drilling.  And of the land currently leased (which would not be effected by the new order) for oil and gas drilling, just over 1/3 is actually being used by the industry.  Returning to enforcing existing policy would only effect new land designations.

Herbert took his typical "funky math" dog and pony show on the road to oppose what would essentially be a more open public land policy with greater opportunity for public input than the policy of the past several years and a policy that wouldn't hurt Utah's School children nearly as much as the legislation from the legislative session waiting on his desk to sign.

Don't believe the hype.

Monday, February 28, 2011

State of the Union Address, 1936

History, repeats:

To be sure, in so doing, we have invited battle. We have earned the hatred of entrenched greed. The very nature of the problem that we faced made it necessary to drive some people from power and strictly to regulate others. I made that plain when I took the oath of office in March, 1933. I spoke of the practices of the unscrupulous money-changers who stood indicted in the court of public opinion. I spoke of the rulers of the exchanges of mankind's goods, who failed through their own stubbornness and their own incompetence. I said that they had admitted their failure and had abdicated.

Abdicated? Yes, in 1933, but now with the passing of danger they forget their damaging admissions and withdraw their abdication.

They seek the restoration of their selfish power. They offer to lead us back round the same old corner into the same old dreary street.

Yes, there are still determined groups that are intent upon that very thing. Rigorously held up to popular examination, their true character presents itself. They steal the livery of great national constitutional ideals to serve discredited special interests. As guardians and trustees for great groups of individual stockholders they wrongfully seek to carry the property and the interests entrusted to them into the arena of partisan politics. They seek-this minority in business and industry--to control and often do control and use for their own purposes legitimate and highly honored business associations; they engage in vast propaganda to spread fear and discord among the people--they would "gang up" against the people's liberties.

The principle that they would instill into government if they succeed in seizing power is well shown by the principles which many of them have instilled into their own affairs: autocracy toward labor, toward stockholders, toward consumers, toward public sentiment. Autocrats in smaller things, they seek autocracy in bigger things. "By their fruits ye shall know them."
Also, this.

Response from Senator Liljenquist

Last week, we challenged Senator Dan Liljenquist, the man behind Utah's pension (2010) and Medicaid (2011) reforms to explain an indisputably inaccurate post drawing a comparison between what's happening in Wisconsin, and his own reforms here.  Liljenquist is often touted as an "expert" on these two issues, and how they relate to state budgeting.  That's why it was such a shock to see him get it so wrong.  Under a bit of pressure, Liljenquist finally posted comments from both Craig and I on his post, and responded in a single tweet:
@SenatorDanL: @ I know the wrath of unions and their ostrich like insistence that nothing is wrong. I'm with Gov Walker.
Liljenquist didn't object to our challenges to his rendition of the budget issue in Wisconsin. He isn't objecting to the fact that these "wrathful" unions have agreed to all of the concessions asked of them by the state of Wisconsin.  He didn't objecting to the implication that the fight in WI seems less about the budget, and more about a concentrated conservative push to undermine workers unions and pin state budget problems on the backs of teachers, firefighters and laborers.  He didn't challenge the notion that WI Governor has helped to create a budget crisis with corporate hand outs.  He didn't challenge the fact that state budgets are suffering the effects of a high unemployment, a housing crisis, and an economy in serious need of investment rather than further growth stifling cuts.

But he is, clearly, comparing what's going on there to what he is pushing for here.  So can we assume he intends to create, with the support of the entire legislature, to create the same budgetary environment in Utah?

It's disappointing.  Having spoken with Liljenquist a few times, I was impressed.  Perhaps I just wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, hoping he was coming from was a position of true concern for the future of all Utahns, as far as that future is tied to how we budget.  Unfortunately, it seems Liljenquist is nothing but another ideologue with an axe to grind.  Liljenquist is fond of saying "Do the math."  I encourage everyone to do exactly that.  Liljenquist's doesn't add up, or he is willing to mislead to justify his agenda.  Also worth noting, these reforms amount to changing the rules mid-game.  The state, like Wisconsin, is in effect renegotiating a contract made with Utah workers regarding promised earnings because they, legislators, did not budget well enough to meet their end of the bargain in a recessive economy.  That's irresponsible, and now Liljenquist wants to place the blame on you!

With that in mind, the cries of "Medicaid is bankrupting us!" play out more as an weak excuse than a noble call to action.  Last year, that same excuse was made to justify rushed pension reforms.  What's next, Senator?  Education?  Transportation?  Probably.  And speaking of ostriches, notice that missing from any/all of this debate is any discussion of Utah's revenue stream architecture.  Liljenquist would have us believe Utah has stumbled upon perfection in that arena, and any short coming must obviously be the fault of people who want retirement security or reliable medical services.

Both pensions and Medicaid are important parts of budgetary planning, and no one -- ever -- should defend the status quo as the best that can be done, including tax structure.

In light of all of this, Utahns should be very suspicious about how these reforms are taking shape, and what, exactly, Senator Liljenquist's true motives really are.