Friday, March 29, 2013

It Makes No Sense

Maybe it’s because I’m a “crazy liberal”, but I’m having a very difficult time understanding why Republican leaders act the way they do. I’d love to learn why.  

It makes no sense why Republican leaders would support a massive government intrusion on a couple’s decision to get married, even though they are “very strong on liberty and small government.”

It makes no sense why they would favor keeping certain tax cuts and loopholes for the rich if they knew that, in order to expense these benefits, they would either need to A) cut programs – like student loans and unemployment benefits and/or B) raise taxes. It’s simple economics.

It makes no sense why Republican leaders claim that balancing the budget is the key to creating jobs, when the reverse is actually true (take the years during the Clinton Administration, where investments in job creation led to a balanced budget and reduced debt). Why would they argue against government borrowing money to spend on improving the quality of life for its citizens when an average American borrows money all the time to buy a house or a car?

It makes no sense why they would say they’re the biggest proponents of the free market, when they have voted almost 40 times to repeal a set of reforms to our healthcare system (Obamacare) that serves to protect consumers, reduce costs, improve the quality of care, and prevent monopolies in the health insurance industry.

It makes no sense to me why Republican leaders would heavily criticize Obama and the Democrats for “reckless government spending” when most of them argued against ending the Iraq War (which cost taxpayers $3 trillion and 4,500 American lives).

It makes no sense to me why Republicans don’t complain about the rich “mooching” from the government via tax loopholes, but cry foul when a student needs help paying for college, or a cancer patient needs access to affordable healthcare.

We’ve seen the progress that can occur as soon as Republican leaders start listening to their constituents – leaders like Congressman Paul Ryan (who accepted federal stimulus dollars in his district), or Florida Governor Rick Scott (who has stopped withholding Medicare savings from his state via Obamacare).

We can only hope more do the same. But as President Obama recently said during his trip to Israel:

"Speaking as a politician, I can promise you this: political leaders will not take risks if the people do not demand that they do. You must create the change that you want to see." 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Liberal Test

Are you one of those pesky liberals? Answer these 4 easy questions to find out:

1. Do you believe in the free market?

If you answered yes, you might be a liberal! Prior to Obamacare, health insurance companies locked in consumers while concurrently raising their premiums. Insurance companies did not have to compete for consumer business and, therefore, provided mediocre care. If a consumer wanted to search for a different insurer, they were denied coverage. Furthermore, when the consumer fell ill, they were often denied coverage and dropped from their insurance plans despite having paid for service. 

2. Do you think interracial couples should be allowed to get married?

If you answered yes, you might be a liberal! Until recently, interracial marriage was just as illegal as gay marriage is today in most states. Banning one type of marriage over another is not only hypocritical, but denies individuals of civil rights and Constitutional rights as Americans. This is not about gay rights, but about human rights. Furthermore, government should not “infringe upon our liberties” by dictating who we should and should not love in the privacy of our lives.

3.  Do you think all employees should be free from all forms of discrimination by employers?

If you answered yes, you might be a liberal! Prior to President Obama’s repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, members of the military were discriminated against and discharged from duty if they admitted to being gay. Just as we did not accept the notion of “separate but equal” with our African American brothers and sisters, we should not accept it with our LGBT brothers and sisters.

4. If a large corporation was on the verge of bankruptcy, do you agree that it would take some time and targeted investments to recover? 

If you answered yes, you might be a liberal!  When President Bush left office, our economy went from a $230 billion surplus to a $1.4 trillion deficit. We lost over 750,000 jobs per month. The housing market busted. Financial institutions were out of cash. The U.S. auto-industry was going bankrupt. The nation was in a panic.

Four years later, because of reforms and stimulus passed by President Obama, we have created more net new jobs than President Bush had in the seven years before the crisis. We have almost 3 years of consecutive job growth, added 6 million jobs, reduced unemployment from its peak at 10.2% to 7.7%, strengthened our financial system, stabilized the housing market, and lowered the cost of living – while improving the quality of life – for all Americans.

And for all those Republicans who falsely accuse the President of reckless and excessive government spending, they somehow are ignorant of their very own silence that prevailed when President Bush passed expensive tax cuts for the wealthiest few and engaged in two costly wars.

The problem with the Republican mantra of “smaller government is always better government” is that it disregards the idea that government can actually be seen as a partner and promoter of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”.

Government can strengthen the fundamentals of capitalism by increasing consumer demand, preventing fraud, encouraging fair competition, and freeing up capital to stimulate a weakened market.

Government can be a lender of last resort when no private entities are able or willing to do so. 

Government can promote the safety and well-being of our citizens by outlawing discrimination, enacting regulations that prevent smoking on a plane, inspecting the food we eat and cleaning the air we breathe.

Government can provide education and resources to those in need, while providing incentives and benefits to those more fortunate. 

Government can make necessary investments in the future of our nation, just as a business would to increase its long-term success (even if its investments mean lower short-term profits).

All in all, government’s role is not to punish those who are successful but, rather, to ensure that everyone is given a fair shot and that everyone plays by the same rules.

THAT is the true essence of our democracy.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

The Party of Lincoln

In Governor Romney’s interview yesterday, he once again highlighted the major flaw with the Republican Party – the mentality that American society consists of two groups of citizens: the givers and the takers.

We often hear Republican leaders make the claim that there are a group of people who are completely dependent on big government and, consequently, fail to take responsibility for their lives. They take advantage of government services like welfare and healthcare, and continue taking from society without giving back.

But this only proves that the Republican Party is simply blind to the struggles of most Americans. And that’s why they lost this past election in such a huge and devastating way.

They need to understand that, in addition to having the best organized grassroots campaign in history, the primary reason President Obama won by a landslide is because of his persistence to helping the driving force of this economy: the middle and working class.

The middle and working class of this country are the true engine of economic growth. They are the true job creators because they are the ones that end up spending money. They are the ones that create demand for a business’s products. They are the ones that use the services a company provides. When they prosper, as evidenced in the '90s, we all prosper.

The basic, underlining point – one that today’s Republican Party fails to understand – is this: No one in this country is completely self-reliant. Therefore, we need to government to ensure equality of opportunity (not outcome). 

And that’s exactly what President Obama proposed in his deficit-reduction plan.

In 2011, the President went farther than the political middle  by compromising into law targeted spending cuts that amounted to $2 trillion  (via entitlement savings in Healthcare, Medicare, and Student Loans) without including any revenue increases in order to win Republican support.

But as every economist understands, you need a balanced approach of both spending cuts AND revenue increases to spur economic growth.

Last week, however, when it came time for Republicans to hold up on their end of the deal, they refused to increase revenues from the wealthiest few.

These individuals (the “givers”), Republicans claim, should not be forced to pay their fair share, even if that comes at the expense of programs that serve to benefit the middle and working class (the “takers”).

This is unacceptable.

When a business chooses to invest in a new machine, pay its employees higher wages, or purchase more merchandise, everyone understands that – even if these choices result in lower short-term profits – the long-term success of the company is dependent on such decisions.

In the same way, our government cannot cut our way to prosperity.  

My mother came to America when she was 18. She worked a full-time job at a nursing home for minimum wage ($3.25 an hour) while enrolled full-time at a community college. To help pay for her education, she also took student loans. After graduating, she got married to my dad and found work for a meager salary of $20,000 a year. While I was born and my father continued struggling to find work, my mother became the head breadwinner of our family. She also needed to take advantage of certain tax breaks aimed at working families, such as the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit. After seven years of working hard, however, her company laid her off because of downsizing. She then had to survive off unemployment benefits for 6 months as she had her second child, my younger sister. 

Today my parents are both successful small business owners. They are the “job creators” who “built that”. But they understand that they needed “big government” every step of the way.

The sooner Republican leaders understand this, the sooner they will return to “The Party of Lincoln.”