I'm a Pundit Too

Thursday, December 27, 2007

2007, A Year Like No Other. Or Was It?

As 2007 comes to a close, we look back over the preceding 12 months to see some heartbreaking stories, some that lifted our spirits, and then there were some that showed that in politics, one year is pretty much the same as any other year. January started with plenty of promises from politicians about the impending change in Congress. It is now ending with very little changed about how things are done in Washington. Let’s look back over the year at just a few of the events that made history.

Undoubtedly, one of the biggest stories of the year took place on April 16 in the college town of Blacksburg, Va. Cho Seug-Hui became infamous throughout history for his killing spree on the campus of Virginia Tech that claimed the lives of 33 students and staff. As with any tragedy, there were scores of “experts” that appeared to assign blame to everyone from the gun that Cho used, to President Bush. After all, Bush is to blame for everything. Noticeably missing from their blame game was Cho himself.

Iraq again claimed many of the headlines and the debates on Capitol Hill. In January, Bush pledged to send an additional 20,000 troops to Iraq. Immediately the Democrats and some Republicans started to calling for an all out surrender and defeat of our troops. They popular refrain was that we had already lost and the troop surge would be a disaster. The Democrats promised to block the troop surge, but when it when it came time to follow through on their promise, we found that their promises were just more empty rhetoric. The President stood firm on the troop surge and as the year comes to a close, even the staunchest opponents have started to admit the surge has had a very positive effect on the violence in Iraq.

Former Vice President Al Gore continued his crusade against the United States. I apologize, I meant to say global warming. He organized and delivered worldwide concerts to raise awareness about the global warming issue. The concerts proved to be a ratings disaster for television, and released untold amounts of carbon. The ultimate goal was to increase awareness about global warming to decrease the amount of carbon that we produce. The organizers purchased carbon credits to “offset” the carbon that was produced to put on the concert. Carbon credits are the rich environmentalists way of appeasing their consciences for living how they want, but still preaching that the rest of us should go “green”. Gore was rewarded for his efforts with the Nobel peace prize.

Rush hour traffic in Minneapolis became a nightmare for the commuters on the I35 bridge in early August when the bridge collapsed and fell into the Mississippi River below. 13 people died in the collapse that brought attention to the thousands of bridges across our country. The I35 bridge had been recently inspected and had been deemed safe but deficient. The ongoing investigation is hoping to reveal the cause of the bridge failure. We could probably save a great deal of time and money and just blame Bush for the collapse. After all, there were many who believed he was responsible at the time.

In regard to sports, it was a year of black eyes for baseball and for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. Vick was charged with dog fighting and gambling related offenses. He agreed to a plea bargain in which he will serve 23 months in prison. Former senator George Mitchell release his much anticipated steroids report on baseball. Several high profile names appeared on the list including Roger Clemens, Andy Petite, and of course Barry Bonds. Some of the players that were named, admitted to using steroids, but only before Major League Baseball had instituted a no steroids policy. Baseball to its credit is trying to clean up it’s act now, but for many it is too little, too late. They were forced into the policy only after Jose Canseco released his “tell-all” book brought the steroid issue to the forefront. The NFL dealt with their steroid problems years ago. I guess if Commissioner Bud Selig needs an easy scapegoat, he could always blame Bush. It seems to be very popular right now.

These are only a few of the events that made news this past year. This year has had many notable events, but the reaction to the events always seems to be the same from year to year. It doesn’t matter what the event is, there will always be those who look to place the blame on someone or something who has nothing to do with the event. There will always be politicians who promise to change the world, only to succumb to the lust for power and assign their earmarks to every piece of legislation. 2008 promises to be a very exciting and interesting year, especially with the election next November. The events are yet unknown, but the reactions are not. The question is will we accept the same old tired political figures and answers? Or will we opt for a fresh start next November?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Another Do Nothing Congress

In January of 2007, the control of Congress was handed over to the Democratic party leadership under the mantra of “A New Direction”. After 11 months of control, the 110th Congress has one of the lowest approval ratings in history. The Democrats used the negative numbers in their campaigns last year to help retake control of both houses of Congress. Just before the November elections last year the Republican controlled Congress had a similarly low approval, but after a year of Democrat control, the voting public appears to have the same level of disdain for the way that the Democrats have handled their power. Both political parties are in some serious trouble when it comes to the public’s confidence in their ability to lead.

When the Republicans were in control, they displayed no desire to control their own drunken sailor spending habits, effectively deal with the illegal immigration problems, or to police their congressional colleagues relationships with lobbyists. The Democratic leadership took over and promised to lead the Congress in a new direction. That direction holds a striking resemblance to the Congress they promised to change. They have done nothing to rein in the out of control spending. Under the leadership of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform was brought to the floor and soundly defeated (thank God for that defeat). The lobbying rules have changed to some extent, but they left enough loopholes to allow themselves to still receive their perks.

The Democrats were elected to change directions in Congress, but also in the war in Iraq. After numerous threats to withdraw all funding for the troops, and incessant caterwauling of Pelosi, Reid, Murtha, et al of defeat, the Congress has not succeeded in their stated goal of bringing the troops home immediately. In fact, the troop levels have risen to accommodate the “surge” and we have seen astounding success. Even Murtha, who has been decrying our efforts for more than a year, has been heard acknowledging that the surge is working. The Democratic party is in dangerous territory politically. If the military effort continues to go well, they are seen as the doomsayers in the face of victory. If the war goes badly, then they are seen as the gleeful recipients of war casualty numbers. The Democratic party is beholden to the anti-war establishment, who expects nothing less than a complete withdrawal of our troops from Iraq. With the failure to cause any change in war strategy, the Democrats need to appease the anti-war supporters. The question is, what will they be able to accomplish on that front without appearing to be anti-troop?

The Republicans lost their power in large part to their ties to lobbying scandals and their inability to control spending. After a year in the minority, they have shown very little improvement on the spending issue. Most Republicans seem just as eager as the Democratic counterparts to spend as if there was no tomorrow. They rush to attach earmarks to legislation to send more of our money to their pet projects. Most Republican voters consider themselves to be for a smaller, less intrusive government. The Republican party of late has done nothing to slow the growth of government, or even shrink the size. They have given the taxpayers a tax cut, which has helped, but they did nothing to ensure that the tax cuts would be permanent. The tax cuts are due to expire in a few years and there will be no one to blame but the Republicans who did not act while they had control.

Now that an election season is upon us yet again, both sides will be clamoring for the public to vote for them to lead the Congress. With the abysmal approval ratings of Congress, one might expect that a sweeping change might be in the near future, but if history serves as any indicator, the vast majority of the voting public will disapprove of all of Congress, with the exception of their elected representative. The same tired politicians will be sent back to DC to continue to disappoint us all. The leadership of both parties is to blame for not running quality candidates, but the voting public is also to blame for the sad state of politics. We complain about the way things are done, but continue to support the same people for office. We allow the media to tell us who the frontrunners are and fail to do our own homework on where each of the candidates stand. This election cycle, there is a wide variety of candidates for president. Check out each candidate and decide for yourself who most resembles your own morals, values, and beliefs.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

To Raise Or Lower Taxes? That Is The Candidate's Question

The Democratic candidates for president participated in their final debate before the Iowa caucuses on January 3. One by one the candidates echoed each other in the need to raise taxes and to having no desire to balance the budget. The Republican candidates were on hand yesterday to debate the issues. Their common theme was their desire to cut taxes and to cut federal spending. Last week I covered the candidate’s positions on illegal immigration. This week as we discuss the issue of taxes and spending, the deep divide between the two parties becomes even clearer. From the left side of the political spectrum we are promised higher taxes and no promises on controlling spending. From the right we hear promises of lower taxes and spending cuts.

The majority of the Democratic candidates spoke of raising taxes on the “wealthiest” of Americans and on “big” corporations. Only New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson mentioned his desire to pass a constitutional amendment to balance the budget, and to eliminate Congress’ earmark addiction. The Democrats promise to raise taxes on the rich and corporations make for great headlines for those susceptible to class envy, but reality will be a much different story. The simple truth is that for every dollar that a president or Congress taxes a corporation, the same corporation will raise the price of their product or service. In simple non-intellectual terms, a tax hike on a corporation is a tax hike on all those who buy that corporation’s products. The idea of raising taxes on the rich is not a new one. It is the same tired campaign rhetoric that has been used for at least the past 35 years. If Bill Gates receives a tax hike, while you still pay the same amount, how has your life improved? Do you have any extra money in your pocket? Or do you just feel better that Gates is paying more now?

The Republicans preached against the overspending of the government. I do find it ironic that many of the candidates have been in Congress who has control of the federal purse strings. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney specified several areas of the federal budget that could be cut. He highlighted 342 economic development programs with oversight by different departments. His point was that we do not really need 342 economic development programs. Obviously all 342 programs are not working, but in government failure means more money. Government programs are like taxes. Once they are created and on the books, they are never cut from the federal budget.

Both the Republicans and the Democrats in Congress have allowed federal spending to gorge on our tax dollars. The Democratic candidates have decided that the best course of action is to continue spending like a drunken sailor and make all of us pay for their perceived intellectual superiority. The Republican candidates have come to the realization that if you spend more than you have, you are left with 2 choices. Acquire more money, meaning tax the public more, or decrease your spending. When it comes to the federal budget and taxes, you have to decide if you agree that federal spending is fine and we are just under taxed; or if we need to reign in federal spending and we could all use more of our own money. The differences in the 2 parties are clear. With which candidate do you believe is correct on the budget and taxes?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Presidential Politics and Illegal Immigration

It has been 6 months since the furor over the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill hit the headlines. During the ensuing months, Congress has tried to pass various forms of immigration reform, with each version going down to a devastating defeat. Now we are less than a month away from the Iowa caucuses where the voter of Iowa will begin the process of deciding who will represent the major political parties in next November’s Presidential election. I believe that it is fitting to look at the immigration record of the candidates from both parties.

On the Democratic side of the political spectrum we have Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama, former Senator John Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson, Representative Dennis Kucinich, Senator Joe Biden, Senator Chris Dodd, and former Senator Mike Gravel. These candidates have all received horrible assessments from the non-partisan group Americans for Better Immigration. Clinton, Edwards, and Biden all received a D rating. Obama, Dodd, and Kucinich received a lower rating of D-. Governor Richardson fared the worst of the entire field of candidates with an abysmal score of F-. I have included the links to each candidates score card and the explanations of how the grades are derived.

On the Republican side of the contest we have former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former Governor Mitt Romney, former Governor Mike Huckabee, Representative Duncan Hunter, Senator John McCain, Representative Tom Tancredo, former Senator Fred Thompson, Representative Ron Paul, and former Ambassador Alan Keyes. This list of candidates as a whole received much better grades from Americans for Better Immigration. Tancredo and Hunter both received outstanding grades with an A+. Romney was rated as good and Paul was given a B. Thompson scored a mediocre C. Giuliani and Huckabee both were rated as bad with McCain earning a D.

Since the campaign season has started to heat up with the polls seemingly changing by the hour who is leading in a particular state, most of the candidates seem to either back away from a previously held position or take both sides of the issue in the same speech. Clinton contradicted herself in the debate last month by favoring and opposing the idea of giving illegal immigrants legal driver’s licenses. Romney has made news by firing a landscaping company who worked on his property for employing illegal immigrants. Giuliani and Romney have traded attacks over the sanctuary status of Rudy’s New York City and Mitt’s state of Massachusetts. Huckabee has been busy answering questions over his support for giving illegal immigrant children in state tuition in Arkansas. McCain has backed off from his rabid support of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Representatives Hunter and Tancredo have been steadfast in their quest to stem the flow of illegal immigrants across our borders. Senator Obama was equally as steadfast in his support for the driver’s license issue in the debates last month. Governor Richardson has the worst record on illegal immigration of all of the candidates. He has a nearly perfect record in the wrong direction. Senator Edwards has been vigilant in his support of illegal immigration. Representative Paul has been very consistent on the issue with very few exceptions.
As the primaries approach, I believe we should look at each individual candidate and weigh their positions on the issues and decide if their beliefs and values match ours. Illegal immigration is not the only issue in play this election season, but it is the one issue on which that the majority of Americans agree. Where does your candidate of choice stand on this issue? What about taxes? What about the war on terror? Do a little research and see where they stand. This not a beauty contest or a popularity contest, we are deciding who will lead the greatest country in the world.