Sunday, October 24, 2010

What has the Democratic Congress Done?

One can argue that this Democratic controlled Congress has done the wrong thing, but if you know the facts you sure can not argue that they haven't been hard at work. Consider this very partial list of legislation passed:
  • The first comprehensive health care bill ever.
  • Credit card reform protecting the consumer.
  • Financial market reform.
  • The largest middle-class tax cut in history.
  • The largest investment in green energy in history.
  • Making college loans more affordable.
  • The Cash for Clunkers program to help the auto industry.
  • Making it easier for women to challenge pay discrimination.
  • Increasing federal regulation of tobacco products.
  • Cracking down on waste in Pentagon weapons acquisition.
  • Reform of the ITAR trade regulations making US aerospace corporations more competitive.
  • Funding for the first private, commercial human space launchers.
  • Making attacks based on sexual orientation a federal hate crime.
  • Giving businesses tax incentives to hire unemployed workers.
  • Tax credits for first-time homeowners.

    They also passed legislation to reverse massive job losses and forestal another Great Depression. All this in the face of literally hundreds of Republican filibusters.

    If you think this work took the country in the wrong direction, if you liked where we were going before Obama became president, then vote for Republicans. They say they haven't changed and I'm sure they haven't. If you think the legislation of the last two years is headed in more-or-less the right direction, then vote for Democrats, you'll probably get more along these same lines. Otherwise, expect a hard right turn.

    I would have liked more here or there, but by and large I think the Democrats have taken us in the right direction, and we should keep going.

    I coach youth soccer. When the kids are playing defense I tell them: don't give up. If you don't get the ball right away, keep after it. To those angry that in two years the Democrats have not fixed all the ills they inherited, I say the same thing. Don't give up. The second thing I tell my soccer team is trust your team mates. Even if they lose the ball, keep passing to them. When times get tough, there is a tendency to turn on your friends and allies. This is a mistake. Don't be a fool, support your friends and go after your opponents. If your favorite legislation didn't pass, don't attack the people that voted for it, attack the people that voted against it.

  • Sunday, October 17, 2010

    How I'm Voting and Why

    Here's a list of most of the propositions and positions that I can vote for this November (2010) along with my choice and a little bit about why. Note that I'm not voting for the Green, Peace and Freedom, or Libertarian parties. With a few exceptions, these folks are not serious. They all had a free opportunity to send a paragraph to every single voter in California in the voter information guide. Most of them didn't bother to write more than a line or two. Serious candidates take advantage of such opportunities.

    In any case, here's how I'm voting and why:

  • Sam Farr for representative. He mostly votes they way I want him to and he takes care of the district. Also, his opponent doesn't want the people to elect U.S. Senators, he wants the state legislatures to do that. More important, over the last two years the Democrats under President Obama have turned this country around. It's not steaming ahead very fast, but at least we are creating 50-70,000 private sector jobs a month rather than losing 750,000. I think they've done a fairly good job in the last two years and deserve another two before it's reasonable to expect great things. See Have the Democrats Delivered? for details.
  • Barbara Boxer for senator. I like Senator Boxer. She's smart and capable. She mostly votes the way I like. I'm not at all impressed by her opponent, who seems to be clueless as to how to win counterinsurgency wars. Also, Boxer is a big champion of President Obama's space program, which, in my personal and professional opinion, was terrific (see Obama's Brilliant Space Policy). Barbara Boxer's worked hard to get the best possible version through Congress, although it was significantly watered down by others.
  • Jerry Brown for governor. I remember when Brown was governor in the 1970s and I think he did a good job. He's very frugal, refusing to live in the expensive governor's mansion and renting a small apartment instead. His opponent has some promise but has two great weaknesses: 1. She's an inexperienced outsider with little knowledge of government. She didn't even bother to vote for many years. We tried an inexperienced outsider with our current governor. It hasn't worked well. I think we should try a seasoned pro who really knows the details of how state government works (and doesn't work). 2. She thinks being a CEO teaches you how to create jobs. For a company that's simple: sell product, make money, hire folk. The equivalent for government would be: raise taxes and hire people -- probably not what we want. CEOs can spend company money as they see fit, governors have to put every penny of expenditure through a legislature. CEOs can fire and hire on command, governors cannot. Government isn't a company. It doesn't work the same and it shouldn't. Government, for example, isn't about making money.
  • Gavin Newsom for lieutenant governor. I've been impressed by Newsom every time I've heard him speak. He also stuck his neck out on Gay Marriage. That took some guts, even in San Francisco.
  • Yes on Proposition 19, legalizing Marijuana. It's not really the government's business if adults take recreational drugs, prohibition didn't work for alcohol and is a disaster for other drugs, and then there is Portugal. Ten years ago Portugal decriminalized all drugs. The result: a 50% drop in the number of heroin addicts. If you're serious about really reducing drug use, see How to Actually Win the War on Drugs.
  • Yes on Proposition 20, take redistricting away from the legislature. Having the legislature set district boundaries is a gross conflict of interest, is used to create safe seats for incumbents, and is inconsistent with real democracy. Almost anything else would be better.
  • Yes on Proposition 21, vehicle license fees to pay for state parks. I like parks and I like the honesty of the proponents in saying exactly where the money is to come from.
  • No on Proposition 22, prohibits certain kinds of funds transfers by the legislature. I'm not too sure about this one. I'm voting against it for two weak reasons: 1. I don't understand what will really happen, and it's unwise to vote for something one doesn't understand. 2. This tries to tie the hands of the legislature to keep them from doing something. The corrupt legislators will usually find a way around these sorts of rules, and those trying to do a good job will be hindered. I see this sort of thing in the government all the time: rules are made to try to prevent bad behavior, fail in that but keep the good people from getting anything done. Better to not have the rule and live with the bad behavior, which you'll get in any case.
  • No on Proposition 23, suspending environmental regulation. Without air you will die in five minutes. WIthout water you will be dead in a week. Both are more important than oil or economic development. Find another way to make money. There's lots.
  • Yes on Proposition 24, repeals certain business tax breaks. Again, I'm not too sure about this one, but it seems to eliminate certain tax breaks used primarily by large businesses. Also, the opponents use a lot of ALL CAPS, a sign something's fishy.
  • Yes on Proposition 25, simple majority for the legislature to pass a budget. California has a terrible time passing a budget every year because a 2/3rds majority is required. This means a fairly small minority can hold up everything the state does. It's a mess. This legislation preserves the 2/3 requirement to increase taxes, but is otherwise a blow for majority rule and the simple ability to get stuff done.
  • No on Proposition 26, 2/3 vote required to increase certain fees. I'm not hard over on this one, but I like majority rule. There are times when the minority should prevail, but not at this level. 2/3 majorities for this sort of thing induce paralysis.
  • No on Proposition 27, eliminates the redistricting commission. This is a ploy by the legislature to continue to control their own districts so they can carve out safe ones for themselves. It's corrupt.
  • Debra Bowen, Democrat, for Secretary of State. She is the current secretary of state and seems to have done a good job. It turns out Republican Damon Dunn didn't bother to vote until 2009, which is a little weird for the state's chief election officer.
  • John Change, Democrat, for Controller. His statement was pretty good and most of his opponents, including the Republican, couldn't be bothered to write a statement (Karen Martinez, Peace and Freedom, wrote two measly lines).
  • Bill Lockyer, Democrat, for Treasurer. As current treasurer he apparently got through the crash without losing any money for the state -- a very good piece of work. That said the Republican Mimi Walters has a reasonably good statement.
  • Kamal Harris, Democrat, for Attorney General. The Republican is a strong supporter of the death penalty, which occasionally kills innocent people. Possibly quite often as dead folks don't get DNA tested to discover they are innocent, as has happened with dozens of death row inmates wrongly convicted. If you jail someone and find they are innocent, you can release them. Hard to do from the grave.
  • Larry Aceves for Superintendent of Public Instruction. His opponent seems to have no administrative experience.

    There you have it. Now go out and vote!

  • Sunday, October 3, 2010

    The Economy, Deficit, and Republicans

    The Republicans are aiming to take control of Congress this November. They say they will do a better job of reducing the deficit and growing the economy. Their stated approach is to lower taxes and reduce regulation. It is reasonable to ask: What does history say?

    The Republicans have controlled the executive and legislative branches simultaneously three times in the last 100 years.

    • The 1920s, which ended in the Great Depression.
    • In the 1950s, but only for two years.
    • And in the 2000s, which ended in the deepest recession since the Great Depression.
    Is there reason to believe the Republicans have new ideas and approaches that would lead to something other than another economic collapse? They say no, they will follow exactly the same policies: tax cuts (mostly for the wealthy) and deregulation.

    Before 1980 the federal government rarely ran large deficits, the exception being during relatively short wars such as World War II. Then,

    • Republican president Ronald Reagan asked for and received large tax cuts, which were closely followed by the largest peace time deficits in our history. These deficits continued under Republican George H. W. Bush.
    • Democrat Bill Clinton reversed these policies and the deficits were eliminated; handing 2000 election winner Republican George W. Bush a large surplus.
    • Large tax cuts, primarily for the wealthy, were passed and by the time Bush left office in January of 2009 the fiscal year deficit was estimated at $1.2 trillion.
    Republican solutions led to huge deficits twice in my lifetime; so do they have a new approach, new ideas? They say no, they will follow exactly the same policies.

    If you like economic collapse and huge deficits, by all means vote Republican. That's what they've delivered and they promise more of the same.