Tom Rinaldo's Journal
Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
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They are about seizing power and using it for their own ends everytime, and they only "negotiate" when all other routes are closed to them. The Bush tax cuts NEVER were popular, polls at the time showed most peole saw them as a giveaway to the rich. Bush LOST the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000. Republican paid staffers mobbed the offices in Florida when the recount was taking place. Republican appointees to the Supreme Court over rode the State of Florida Courts and forced the recount to end - giving the electoral votes to Bush. The Supreme Court then went out of it's way to insist that their ruling should not be seen as establishing any legal precidents. Once in office Bush pushed through his tax cuts over almost unamimoust Democratic objections (one of two supporting Democratic Senators later defected to the Republican Party. The The Senate wsa tied 50/50, and Dick Cheney cast the deciding vote.
The Republican Party didn't worry about public opinion or seeming "reasonable" then, they flat out used their power to grab what they wanted. They don't care about it now either. Republicans don't care that the American people strongly support letting those tax cuts expire on all incomes over $250,000, as the recent election showed. They don't care if Americans say don't touch Social Security and Medicare. They want what they want and Americans will just have to learn to deal with it once they get it. That is the Republican way.
Republicans have no shame over making a laughing stock of the Senate with systematic Fillibuster abuse. They have no remorse about bottling up Obama's judicial appointees at a record pace. Republicans seize and wield power, all other consideratons are secondary at best. Democrats are the ones who worry about "seeming reasonable". Even when we win the elections and the public is on our side, we stand ready to give the Republicans through "negotiations" what they can not win at the ballot box.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 19, 2012, 05:38 PM (8 replies)
Letting the Bush tax cuts on the rich expire is settled law. They are scheduled to end by stature, but on a more profound level that law was settled by the public in a presidential year national election. The 2012 elections were fundamentally about making the rich pay their fair share. Obama won in a landslide. Against all odds and expectations, Democrats also picked up two seats in the Senate, and Democratic candidates for the House got more votes overall than Republicans, while Democrats there picked up 8 seats. Voters took preserving tax cuts for the rich off the table and Democrats should never have put it back on. That flies against the public will, and the public is equally adamant about protecting Social Security. Overwhelmingly polls say they Americans don't want those benefits cut
Republicans insist that we still can afford letting Americans earning over $250,000 a year to keep getting tax cuts that were designed to be temporary. Clearly our backs can't be against the fiscal wall with such low hanging fruit left unplucked. Yet Obama is willing to take $112 billion out of the pockets of current Social Security beneficiaries over the next 10 years alone, and hand it over to Americans making ten to twenty times more than the average person on Social Security annually has to live on. That is income redistribution of the worst kind. It mandates putting the squeeze on the elderly and the seriously disabled, people no so called “job creators” will ever hire no matter how much Bush tax cut savings they manage to keep pocketing.
Yes the American people expect compromise, but not the sort that compromises the health and well being of the least among us. After the rich pay their full fair share, then we can look at what further revenue increases and budget cuts are needed to bring our fiscal house in order. That will take more revenue increases not less, and yes further spending cuts too. The Bush tax cuts for the wealthy have been fully litigated in the court of public opinion; they belong to history now. With that as the starting point let negotiations begin next year, after we cross over the fiscal cliff.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 19, 2012, 03:28 PM (8 replies)
It is also theoretically possible for a gun belonging to a teacher to fall into the hands of a student resulting in the death of other students and/or teachers, by accident or on purpose. Which is a more likely scenario?
Even in our gun crazed culture, shooters rarely enter schools. Allowing teachers and principals to have weapons inside schools would bring guns on site daily. Unlike the police or other security personel, teachers and administrators have other jobs that call for their constant attention, but there are plenty of instances in which professional security officials end up shot by their own guns also. Why would guns be safer wth teachers?
In hindsight one can always say that there might have been a lapse in judgent or carelessness that contributed to guns being taken from their lawful owners and used in crimes, but lapses in judgement and momentary carelessness can always be counted on to happen. We all know that. Even the NRA knows that.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Dec 17, 2012, 11:32 AM (18 replies)
A small but increasingly influential element of the Republican Right opposes all efforts to regulate assault rifles, semi-automatic weapons, and high capacity ammo magazines precisely because they are effective in combat situations, but no one seems willing to say it. All of the eminently reasonable comments about hunters not needing automatic weapons to bag a deer miss the point completely. The NRA tries to muddy the waters whenever they can but no one seriously tries to make a case for hunters needing semi-automatic pistols with large ammo magazines. Even the NRA knows no one would buy that line. So instead they raise the specter of "a slippery slope" that begins with machine guns banned and ends with hunting outlawed. They then shift the focus to crime and personal security, because they know only a shrinking small minority of Americans still hunt or engage in sport gunmanship.
But an insistence that individuals need access to semi-automatic weapons to protect themselves is irrational, if the threat envisioned is common crime. If the solution to street crime is arming the public with semi-automatic weapons, than the cure is far more deadly than the disease. Innocent bystanders already are killed in shootouts. No one is safer if threatened individuals begin spraying their near vicinity with a hail of bullets. Semi-automatic assault rifles are offensive weapons, designed to kill large numbers of people. A standard pistol or a shotgun is far better suited for defensive use, unless of course you are defending yourself against a hoard of heavily armed attackers
Which begs the obvious unasked question: Is that why the most unflinching opponents of reasonable gun control measures refuse to give an inch? Are they arming themselves with the weapons most appropriate for future combat scenarios? I think it naïve to assume that the answer to that question is anything other than yes. Right wing militias have been forming for decades, training for overt military confrontations. Mainstream candidates for the U.S. Senate now talk openly about “Second Amendment remedies”. Increasingly the phrase, “Government is the enemy” has taken on literal implications. And then there are the survivalists, large segments of which believe that in some coming apocalypse roving lawless mobs will descend upon rob and kill anyone who had the foresight to assemble the provisions needed to weather the collapse of civilization. Heavy weaponry will be needed, they believe, to survive that approaching crimson dawn.
Would most of the individuals now motivated to defend themselves against the specter of a full blown “Communist Fascist U.S. Government”, or the inevitable Zombie hoards, hesitate before actually turning their combat weaponry against fellow American citizens over perceived but non-existent threats? I like to think most would, if push ever came to gun. That might prevent a future slaughter along the lines of a civil war, but it doesn’t help us now. In subservience to their paranoid delusions sane gun regulations are off the table today. American is held hostage to right wing political zealotry that accepts increasing mayhem and slaughter on American streets as unfortunate but necessary collateral damage. It is time to face that reality.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Dec 15, 2012, 09:41 AM (19 replies)
I know I am pointing out the obvious here but this angle is being completely ignored by talking heads and politicians alike. With all the DC talk of either nibbling away at Social Security and/or Medicare, or taking away larger bites instead, this trend is not being acknowledged. Even if NOTHING is done to cut ("ahem" reform) either program, serionrs are already getting squeezed and the outlook for future retirerees conturs to deteriorate.
Socuial Security is not a fixed benefit. The amount anyone qualifies for receiving once they start collecting Social Security directly depends on ones history of earnings, which determines how much equity each of us has in our account.
In an earlier era, most workers had their best earning years in the decade prior to retirement - as promotions, seniority and accumulated pay raises added up to increasing incomes. Unions, by and large, were responsible for establishing that now fading template. Unions protected higher wage earners from being targetted for layoffs, allowing workers to retire at peak income levels - which meant that their Social Security benefits upon retirement were calculated based on an ascending rather than descending income curve over the course of their working careers.
Seniors in the future, on average, can look forward to receiving smaller social security checks (adjusting for inflation) than prior generations qualified for. That is increasingly now locked in and will not be reversed unless the decline of organized labor is somehow reversed instead. That is what is happening now, even without forcing seniors to wait another two years before they qualify for Mediare.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 12, 2012, 02:36 PM (7 replies)
The overwhelming majority of Americans will continue to tolerate a tiny minority of self entitled elites hoarding vast sums of obscene personal wealth in return for an adaquate fully functioning economic safety net for the rest of us. Without that minimum guarentee, the Social Contract is Null and Void. Class warfare will no longer be waged exclusively on battlefields of the super wealthy's choosing.
Peace and stability comes with a price, and that is the price. Deal or No Deal?
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Tue Dec 11, 2012, 09:19 AM (12 replies)
Social Security and Medicare were instituted to combat the damning scourge of Senior poverty in America. Today most Americans may be living longer, but becoming poor younger. Our economy has changed since the 1960’s and that change has not been kind to the Middle Class, especially to workers over 50. Increasingly they are targeted as a cost cutting opportunity by company managers seeking to fatten their bottom lines. Once people in their 50’s and early 60’s could count on achieving their highest incomes in those years that directly preceded retirement Not any longer, now their larger paychecks make them the prey of corporate knives.
When layoffs happen in that age group, future job prospects are uncertain at best. One thing though is certain, odds are that any employment they might still secure will be at substantially less pay and with fewer, if any benefits. That is the essential backdrop to the current negotiations about the so called fiscal cliff. The wave of new poverty now hitting Americans over 55 is, to a large extent still happening below the radar. Older Americans who had been preparing for their pending retirement have had to revise their plans radically. Many now stay afloat in a manner reminiscent of a middle class lifestyle only by tapping into resources now that were meant to sustain them in later years.
Gone are the days of corporate pensions and gold watches gratefully given for decades of loyal service. Millions of Americans are now limping toward the finish line of their working careers, trying to hold on until programs like Social Security and Medicare finally kick in to give them a life sustaining boost. What is the response out of Washington to the emergence of this new window of Senior poverty? A drive to cut back “entitlement” spending is now gathering momentum. One of the proposals getting most of the buzz, especially in Republican circles, is to raise the eligibility age for Medicare by two years to 67. With their incomes plunging and their personal resources drained, how will many Americans survive being forced to forgo the availability of affordable health care for an additional two years? The answer is some won’t.
How much money will the federal budget save by denying Medicare to Americans until they reach 67. Most say on the order of 15 Billion a year, or 150 Billion over a decade. Let’s put that into perspective. By allowing the Bush Tax cuts to fully expire, as originally intended, simply on incomes ABOVE $250,000 a year, nearly a trillion dollars in new revenue will enter federal coffers over the next decade. But Republicans are balking. Not only would they rather raise that money by closing unidentified tax “loopholes” (likely including charity deductions and tax write offs for health care costs), they want that figure cut back to 800 billion instead, so the rich can pocket the 200 billion dollar difference. The Republicans prefer all Americans be forced to wait two more years to qualify for Medicare so that the wealthiest 2% of Americans won’t need to pay the full Bill Clinton era tax rates on their incomes above $250,000.
Here is another way of viewing our budget choices, credit to this Reuters article:
Exclusive: U.S. sees lifetime cost of F-35 fighter at $1.45 trillion
Note the timely coincidence. The Pentagon expects to save $15.1 Billion through 2017 by postponing orders for 170 of those planes. That’s what Republicans want to cut Medicare by annually.
Life is full of choices. We pay for a military in the belief that it will protect our life and liberty. We pay for health care for essentially the same reason. Our Air Force is already dominant in the world, how many F-35’s do we need when they compete in cost with Medicare?
Our neighbors to the north just faced a similar decision making process and Canada seems to have thought better of buying a fleet of F-35’s given its current price tag:
Federal government cancels F-35 fighter purchase: source
Michael Den Tandt
Published: December 6, 2012, 1:46 pm
“Faced with the imminent release of an audit by accountants KPMG that will push the total projected life-cycle costs of the aircraft above $30 billion, the Harper Conservatives have decided to scrap the controversial sole-source program and go back to the drawing board, a source familiar with the decision said. This occurred after Chief of the Defence Staff Thomas Lawson, while en route overseas, was called back urgently to appear before members of the cabinet, the source said.
The decision was to go before the cabinet planning and priorities committee Friday morning but the outcome is not in doubt, the source said.”
Of course we wouldn’t be facing decisions like this today if the last Bush Administration had done what American Presidents have always done before to pay for the guns of war when major armed conflicts emerge; raise the revenue to pay for them. If Republicans don’t like forcing the wealthy to pay their fair share so that Medicare remains available at age 65 for Americans who need it, there is a ready alternative. Tell them they are just picking up their share of the cost for George W. Bush invading Iraq.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Mon Dec 10, 2012, 12:14 PM (34 replies)
If Democrats compromise Medicare or Social Security now they wil lose in 2014 also When the most important advance in social welfare legislation since Medicare was handed off to the private Insurance industry virtually exclusively to monopolize, it was like a gut punch to progressive forces. An energized movement that had swept back to back elections in 2006 and 2008 for the Democratic Party spontaneously deflated.
I am not focusing on policy per se right now, not on the argument over what was and was not possible to actually achieve regarding health care, just on the predictable outcome that happens when hopes and dreams are dashed. Politics comes down to people, especially on the Democratic side of the equation.
Democrats by and large are not as self centered as are the elites that fund the Republican Party. We actually do embrace the concept of shared sacrifice, we expect to have to give as individuals to help keep our nation great. But we also believe that what makes our nation great is a society that does not demand that citizens give up what they literally can not afford to lose. We do not believe Americans should be forced into "sacrifices" that jeopardize their health and physical well being, to the point of risking their very lives. Not while there is great, even obscene, wealth awash in confined sectors of this nation we don't
Any betrayal of that core sense of fairness, which underlies the loyalty that motivates millions of liberals and progressives to work their asses off for Democratic candidates for office and to donate hard earned dollars to Democratic campaigns, will cripple the Democratic Party in the next mid-term elections. It is really that predictable and unavoidable a dynamic that Democrats would do well to ponder now during negotiations with the Republicans over the so-called Fiscal cliff".
Raising the age of Medicare eligibility is the very last option that the core Democratic base would consider in regards to cutting our deficits. To put it in blunter terms, if one dime of the Bush tax cuts for the rich gets preserved as the result of current negotiations, if the top tax rate on the wealthiest Americans does not rise all of the way back to Clinton Administration levels, or if the threshold for those cuts is raised above the $250,000 a year income level, that will mean more food and health care denied to some of the neediest in our nation. Democratic voters will revolt if that happens, just like what happened in 2010.
It will happen at a level deeper than any appeal to reason can touch. People can be talked into continuing a relationship for pragmatic reasons after experiencing personal betrayal, but they can't be "reasoned into" continuing it with the same passion and devotion. In a post "Citizens United" political universe, Democrats literally can't afford that type of drop off in voter base enthusiasm.
Republicans argue that even if the rich resume paying the tax rates they paid in the 1990's, the added revenue won't be nearly enough to right our fiscal ship. All the more reason to demand that the wealthy pay those rates now in full AND close tax loopholes closed that predominantly benefit the upper class - who collectively have flourished while the rest of the nation has suffered. Instead Republicans perversely argue that the rich are the ones who should be spared greater so-called sacrifices.
Millions of Americans are today living in part off of savings they once earmarked for their retirement. Americans who lose well paying jobs after they turn 50 can't replace them. Increasingly those approaching retirement age are limping toward that finish line, just trying to hold on until they can qualify for Social Security and Medicare. Pushing Medicare eligibility back two years would be the functional equivalent of a death sentence to tens of thousands of Americans. That is not a Democratic value, and voters know when their interests are being sold out.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sun Dec 9, 2012, 09:57 AM (18 replies)
The Republican Party has moved so far right that something has got to give, moderates can no longer continue to support it. Either they will move into the Democratic Party gravitational field or I predict there will be a major launching of a new Centrist political party within the next eight years.
Think how close that has come already since Perot ran the first time, and then Jesse Ventura got elected Governor. Think Colin Powell and Mayor Bloomberg. Think Arnie out on the West Coast and Lincoln Chaffee in the East. On our side look at Ben Nelson, and Evan Bayh and how close they might be to bolting. Remember how Lieberman won his last election.
I do not welcome new Democrats in name only into our Party, pure opportunists in other words, because they are a Trojan horse at best. But I prefer that sane independent oriented thoughtful moderates defecting from the Republican fold affiliate with Democrats than have a new powerful centrist movement emerge in American politics right now. When conscientious moderates leave the Republican Party, they tend to begin evolving toward increasingly progressive positions.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Sat Dec 8, 2012, 10:18 AM (33 replies)
I know the obvious definition, which goes something like; “to get our economic house in order, everyone has to share the burden”. OK, fine, so we share the burden. But what does that really mean? Are Americans being asked to share “the burden” equally? And just what constitutes a burden anyway? A light backpack is hardly burdensome to a healthy adult hiker, but most four year olds couldn’t handle carrying it for long. Cut the caloric intake of an overweight individual and most would call it dieting. Cut the caloric intake of someone severely malnourished and starvation becomes the more accurate term. But hey, both individuals are giving up something. That is what passes for “shared sacrifice” in Washington lately, at least in Republican circles.
All Americans are supposed to ante up “some skin in the game.” of fighting our budget deficits. Whether that is through liposuction or through amputation is of secondary concern. What matters now is making “the numbers add up”. So long as each side “gives up something” it’s supposed to be “fair”. Split the baby down the middle. Isn’t that what compromise is all about?
The Republican position during the fiscal cliff negotiations is not just totally discredited (the entire 2012 election campaign centered on the question of “fair taxes” and Republicans came up short), it is also morally obscene. The added pain that they now propose fall most heavily on many of our nations most vulnerable citizens was entirely of their own doing
The George W. Bush tax cuts were designed originally to be temporary. Bush campaigned in 2000 arguing that the government was hoarding way too large a surplus, and that much of it should be given back to tax payers in the form of a temporary tax cut. Polling at the time showed most Americans disagreed with Bush’s tax proposal. It was viewed even then as a giveaway to the rich and a reckless potential budget buster. Americans preferred that more of the surplus That Bush inherited from Clinton be used to shore up social security than what Bush chose to allott for that purpose
Though he ultimately won the presidency with a controversial “assist” from the Supreme Court, no one disputes that George Bush lost the popular vote in the 2000 election to Al Gore. Bush was not Americans first choice for President. The Bush tax cuts only became law because his running mate Dick Cheney was in place to cast a tie breaking vote in the Senate to make them into law.
The irony here is hard to miss. In 2000 Polls showed that Americans opposed Bush’s tax plans, Al Gore won more votes for President that George Bush did, yet Bush forced his tax plan through a Senate that was bitterly divided on partisan lines. That is how Republicans traditionally define “compromise” Fast forward to 2012. President Obama campaigned for reelection by strenuously arguing that the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans should be allowed to expire, as originally intended, on all income over $250,000. Polls show that the American people agree with the President’s position on this issue, and Obama received over 4 million more votes than his Republican opponent.
So naturally the Republicans in Congress now propose Mitt Romney’s campaign platform as their idea for a budget compromise. I called their position morally obscene above, and I meant it. On one hand Republicans argue that “painful cuts” must be made to entitlement spending because even if Bush’s tax cuts for the rich are allowed to expire the Trillion dollars in revenue that would generate still falls well short of stanching the red ink of our future deficits. Then Republicans turn around and advocate a plan that raises 20% less in actual revenue than the lapsed Bush tax cuts on the wealthy by themselves would bring in.
An additional 200 Billion dollar shortfall, do you know what that could pay for? When all is said and done its close to an even trade – Republicans want to give those dollars back to the wealthy and offset that cost by raising the age of Medicare to 67 to balance the ledger.
There are many differences between the wealthiest Americans and most of their fellow citizens, but the ability to plan for a comfortable retirement and the means to afford quality health care are prominent among the advantages they typically enjoy. Medicare was created to address Senior Poverty, specifically the inability of aging Americans to afford health insurance in their retirement years when their incomes typically are most limited. Most Americans may be living longer today than when Medicare was first established, but millions of us are becoming poorer sooner.
There is no such thing as reliable employment for life any longer. Pensions are going the way of wind up watches, and few of us are earning gold ones, wind up or not, from grateful employers these days. Pink slips are far more likely, especially for workers over 50 with seniority generated higher wages and benefits. It is a rapidly shrinking percentage of older Americans who can count on retiring from a well paid job when 65 rolls around, with or without an employer provided pension. It’s increasingly more common for late middle age Americans to burn through their retirement savings trying to stay afloat during the decade before they can finally qualify for Social Security and Medicare.
Allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy to finally expire is the least the wealthiest Americans can do for their fellow countrymen and women now after well over a decade of sustained and dramatic income growth within their ranks during a time when real income for the vast majority of Americans has stagnated or actually fallen. That doesn’t qualify as a sacrifice, it is merely justice delayed. Only then can we begin negotiating what burdens each of us as Americans are reasonably in a position to bear in order to put our nation’s finances on sounder footing.
Posted by Tom Rinaldo | Wed Dec 5, 2012, 07:03 PM (6 replies)