Monthly Archives: November 2010

And Another Sign of Government Malpractice

Oh by the way, if you heard about Ben Bernanke’s new plan to print money to alleviate our fiscal nightmares, called “quantitative easing”, this video should help clarify things a bit (and yes, it is that sad that America has come to having to pint money like some third-world country to alleviate our debt crisis).

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Those Six Weeks You Thought Didn’t Matter

Now that the elections are over, it’s time for the “Lame Duck” Congress. For those that aren’t familiar with this term, it’s the last six weeks of the session after elections. During this time, each party will pick its leadership for the next Congress, determine committee posts, and for many members on the Democrat side, cleaning out their offices. However there is still legislation that needs to get done, particularly whether to extend the Bush tax cuts, ratification of the latest nuclear arms treaty with Russia, and the ethics trial of Charlie Rangel (D-NY). For the Democrats, it’s a chance to pass more spending bills without worrying about electoral repercussions, which they plan to do with a proposed $1.1 trillion spending project to compliment the budget that still doesn’t exist, (and assuming that the other $3 trillion in spending is still not enough government control over the econony) which Republicans will probably filibuster. These are important items of business, because if they don’t get passed during this time, then they get tossed out and would have to be re-introduced in the next Congress, which given the radically different landscape expected, may not happen.

Let’s start with the leadership fights. For the Republicans, it is a foregone conclusion that John Boehner (R-Ohio), will become the next Speaker of the House, and Eric Cantor (R-Virginia), will be the new Majority Leader. Before the election, it was assumed that Mike Pence (R-Indiana) would be the new Whip, but he stepped down from his position as the third-ranking member of the caucus as he seeks other ambitions. Therefore, California representative Kevin McCarthy will be the new Majority Whip.

While the Republicans power group was neat and tidy, the Democrats’ fight was a messy business. In a surprising decision, outgoing Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California), went for the position of Minority Leader, despite some members pushing her to retire. It is uncommon for an ousted Speaker to stay in Congress after losing the job, a recent example being Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), the last Republican Speaker. After losing his job in the Democratic wave of 2006, he only remained in the body for a few months, and left in the middle of his term.  Usually when one tries to stay on as party leader, it’s usually an indication that they either think they can get back to the Speaker’s chair, or the party believes it wasn’t his/her fault that their party lost. It is unfathomable to think the latter possibility because when a party loses 62 seats in one election, someone wasn’t doing their job as both leader of the government and leader of the party. To win back the majority, Dems would have to flip roughly 25 house seats in 2012. While not impossible, it would mean having a fourth straight wave election, which would be a very ominous sign for the stability of the country if we have four cycles with more than a 20-seat turnover each time. If the economy continues to falter, the Dems may have their opening, but it will be hard to pin that on the GOP while the President is still a Democrat.

As for the legislative aspect of this Congress, the Bush tax cuts remain the hot-button issue. As I stated in an earlier post (Bush Tax Cuts: To Extend or Not to Extend), this must be done before the session ends, otherwise everybody’s taxes will increase beginning January 1st. If these tax cuts are not extended, it could lead to even more unemployment, and added difficulty for middle-class families to make ends meet. The Democrats want just the middle class cuts to be extended, while Republicans want them extended across the board. Seeing as how the Democrats still hold the government, they have the leverage to get what they want passed and put the GOP on the defensive. However, they had this leverage for two years, and they always seemed to find a way to blow it. It’s possible that the middle class cuts would be extended on a bipartisan basis, and when the GOP moves into the majority, they can try to get the other cuts extended as well. However, this scenario would require Senate and Presidential compliance, which will be in short supply next year, and certainly not for this. The likely scenario is that they won’t get extended because of the infighting among Democratic members that still persists on this issue, and it won’t be brought to a vote, leaving the GOP to deal with it, and the average American with the bill. Compromise is still in the works, but how much will remains after the elections is undeterminable.

 So for six weeks, we sit and wait for our legislators to finish up before the transfer of power. It’s been a Congress marked by partisan bickering, wasteful spending, strong-arm tactics, closed door agreements, and a disgusting growth of government. Hopefully these last moments will result in a glimmer of hope for those that finally want to see something done in a bipartisan, open way, but I’m not holding my breath.

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A New Speaker, A New Dawn

Last night, America witnessed one of the biggest partisan turnarounds in Congressional History. The GOP was able to capture 61 House seats and (so far) 6 Senate seats, making for a divided Congress come January when the new Congress convenes. Numerous factors contributed to this landslide, one of the biggest since World War II. On the House side, it was a repudiation of Nancy Pelosi’s agenda as well as President Obama’s decidedly liberal agenda that alienated independents and led to sharp divisions in Congress. The GOP, with the assistance of the Tea Party and their massive get-out-the-vote rallies, was able to capitalize on this anger and turn it into big House gains, knocking off long-standing incumbents like Armed Services Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Missouri), and Budget Committee Chairman John Spratt (D-South Carolina). Also, powerful Democrats such as Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank (D-Massachusetts), Jim Oberstarr (D-Minnesota), and Progressive Caucus chairman Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), were forced into close races for the first time in their long House careers (Grijalva’s race is still too close to call at this point). While today Republicans across the country are celebrated their remarkable turnaround, it is worth noting that the Republican party is still not very well liked nationwide, and this was more anti-Obama than pro-GOP.

It is this universal negative attitude towards Congress that makes this election different from 1994, which this is often compared to. In 1994, Republicans were held in high-esteem across the country, Newt Gingrich especially. This popularity for conservative policy, as well as the failures of the Clinton administration, led to the GOP takeover of Congress, including the House, which it hadn’t held in 40 years. While the gains last night were more than the ones in 1994, the GOP must now work on both setting their policies out for Americans to see as well as building up popularity for them. This will be challenging, especially since the Democrats still have the Senate (albeit by a greatly reduced margain). While the House is the chamber that rules on spending and tax policies first, it will be difficult for John Boehner (the expected Speaker of the House) to push conservative spending proposals through a hostile Senate. The upside is that Congress will be more bipartisan, and better policies may be carved out, but if the climate remains as hostile two years from now, “compromise” may not be good enough.

It is important that John Boehner and the GOP leadership has a full understanding of what is expected of them. They campaigned on a promise of transparent governing, lower taxes, lower spending, and a scaling back of many of Obama’s legislative goals, specifically the health care law and the stimulus package. While it is possible such things are not out of the question, they must be done.  The GOP rode into the majority on the back of the Tea Party, and should know very well that this is a conservative, not Republican, wave (yes, there is a difference). The Tea Party, assuming it will still be around, will hold Boehner to his word, as it should. We saw this year that when it comes to the Tea Party, they have no qualms with ousting Republicans as well as Democrats.

The media is now beginning to spin last night’s results as the fall of the Democratic Party: saying things like the Dems are now going to be more liberal, which is going to turn off the independents, the psychological blow is tough to come back from, and how the GOP is now full of promising politicians on the state and federal level that are going on to greater things. I laugh reading these pieces because it was only last year that they were writing the same things, except replace “Democrats” with “Republicans” and “liberal” with “conservative”. The reason the Democrats got crushed this year is because of self-inflicted wounds because of arrogance, massive spending, and blaming the American people for not knowing what they’re doing. Those things drove people back to the Republican camp out of anger, not out of love for the GOP. If Speaker Boehner commits the same sins, the same thing will happen, and 2012 will be yet another wave election. If Boehner wants to be the Speaker for a long time, and have a Republican house for a long time, then he must not repeat the mistakes the Democrats made. It’s smart policy and sticking to what you campaigned on that wins over voters.

It was a great night to be a conservative in America. Many good conservative candidates performed well (Rand Paul and Marco Rubio especially). We won the battle to control the House, the goal of 2010, and there will be some people trying to predict the outcomes of 2012, specifically the White House. That will be the pundits job, but as for this new government, it’s time to change the direction of the nation, and restore fiscal sanity in Washington.

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