The Sheep and the Goats

Certain of my family have been passing this meme around and I found it quite timely and appropriate. I made some nitpicky modifications, but the original idea is signed by a Jason Leith. It’s a paraphrase of Jesus in Matthew 25:41-46

41 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 42 For I was hungry and you reduced funding for food stamps, I was thirsty and you prevented the EPA from guaranteeing me clean water, 43 I was a stranger and you vilified me and demanded that I be deported, I needed clothes and you substituted a sales tax for an income tax and slashed welfare payments, I was sick and you took away my only hope for health care, I was in prison and you tortured me.’

44 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and endeavored to harm you further?’

45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did to one of the least of these, you did to me.’

46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

And might I add, “I was homeless and you denied me affordable housing.”

Bringing it all together

It occurred to me that I’ve been preaching to my Congressman, presenting problems without presenting any solutions. Or at least not presenting any solutions to HIS problem as he (probably) sees it. So I realized that some of my other preaching on the relationship of the GOP to their base might be germane to our current budget/debt ceiling woes. So here’s the result:

I understand you’re in a tough spot right now. Having taken the position you have on Obamacare and the budget, you’re looking for a way to save face because, if you are seen as caving in on this position, you become vulnerable to getting “primaried” by someone even more conservative than you next spring. But the President isn’t budging on this and I don’t see any reason why he would. And I really don’t want to see you and your colleagues forced to give up because we’re already defaulting on debts and watching our economy crumble. That’s bad for everyone.

So, “caving” sooner rather than later is good for the United States of America as a whole but is bad for [you personally]. And I think the answer is to get comfortable with this idea: The Republican Base is too small and relying solely on playing to “the base” to get through the primary and then having to energize “the base” to make it through the general election is not a winning strategy in the long-term. Playing to and energizing “the base” only serves to push moderates away making the base even smaller. I know this is true, because that’s me. I’ve always considered myself a moderate Republican, but I can’t, in good conscience, support this party anymore. For many reasons, but not least of which is they don’t seem to want me around anyway. “Fine,” I say to myself, “I’ll take my vote where it’s appreciated.” Giving in on this budget fight is going to piss off “the base,” no doubt, but there are literally millions of people who don’t vote at all in the primaries that would easily dwarf the mere 2 million who voted in both primaries in May 2012. In [your district], even if every person who voted for you in 2012 voted against you (all 43,317), there are still 606,285 [that didn’t vote in any primary, Democrat or Republican] in the voting age population to pull from. Now that’s a base! If you could get just one out of 6 of those to vote for you in the primary you’d blow a putative “attack from the right” out of the water. And are those people going to vote for the Democrat in the general? Please! Me personally, I think the GOP needs to repudiate the Tea Party, but for you, in the face of a very real possibility of having to cave in no matter what you might want to believe, I think this provides a way to still come out a winner. Think about it.

Actually, the 43,317 was my Congressman’s vote plus his only primary competitor. I don’t recall anymore if his competitor was tea-party-er than thou but in this district that’s the way to bet. I doubt that very many of those who opposed my Congressman did so because they thought him too conservative and so might respond favorably to a more moderate position.

But the real point is that I don’t think there’s any scenario in which he doesn’t have to give in on Obamacare and just go ahead and fund the government and raise the debt limit. And when he does cave in, it’s really going to hurt him in the next primary. And even if (somehow) it doesn’t, growing the base is going to be the way to remain competitive in the future (I mean 10-20 years out). And Daily Kos thinks this is one of the districts that is turning bluer these days. Moderating is probably good for my district in the nearer future (say, 5-12 years out).

My representative is an idiot

Well, okay, that’s a little harsh. But he’s definitely drunk the kool-aid on this whole continuing resolution.

 Right now, it’s clear the Senate is not even willing to come to the table for discussion. This should outrage the American people. We cannot let Obama and his democratic-controlled Senate steamroll over the voice of the public. We cannot let this administration continue to pick and choose what laws it wants to enforce. It is not even fully enforcing its own landmark legislation- Obamacare. If it’s not good enough for the administration to enforce now, it’s clearly not ready!

I will continue my fight to fund this government in a fiscally responsible manner. I will continue my fight to delay Obamacare and protect the American public.”

No real facts of course, just GOP talking points. So here’s my response:

I just read your email blast entitled “Where do we go from here.” You complain about the Democrats not negotiating with you. I gotta tell ya, I wouldn’t negotiate with you either if I were in there shoes. First of all, you’re trying to negotiate on a fight you’ve already lost, both in Congress and in the courts. Second, you’re negotiating from a position of weakness; you’re a minority of a minority insisting on being able to control the agenda and there’s really no reason for anyone to let you do that. The Democrats have finally figured out that they are in the majority (with veto power no less). I don’t know why they’ve let you get away with this strategy this long. Third, you’re negotiating in bad faith; no concession is ever enough. The next time a must-pass resolution comes along you ask for more concessions. Y’all are like the vikings in England back in the middle ages; sure they can pay the Danegeld to keep this band of marauders out of your villages, but that won’t stop the next and the next after that. In such a world, only an idiot would keep letting the aggressor get away with it without a fight. Eventually, even an idiot should be able to figure out that standing up to you is the only possible way to get you to quit. Finally, you’re offering a lousy deal. In the first round you seriously wanted to trade a measly month or two of continuing resolution in exchange for giving up on their signature legislative achievement, the work of a century and a dozen presidents? You’ve got to be kidding me. What were you thinking? I know what you were thinking; they’ll fold like a napkin just like they did the last several times. Well, Mr. Congressman, they aren’t folding. I think they are done folding. I think you should expect them to continue to beat you up in the press and I think you should expect to lose. And I think you should expect to kiss the White House good-bye for the next two cycles if not the next two generations. You’ll be lucky to hold the house, and if you do, it’ll only be because of all the gerrymandered seats.
The place to go from here is out to the floor to pass a clean CR and hope the country forgives you. And then, do the same with the debt ceiling. With all this talk of fiscal responsibility, voting against raising the debt ceiling would mark you as a hypocrite.

Debt Limit

I’ve probably said a number of these things here before, but I wanted to share with you my latest letter to my so-called Congressman:

 I notice the House still isn’t getting serious about a budget; I talked about that yesterday. And of course, the longer you all spend futzing with the continuing resolution, the less time you have to deal with the debt limit. Let me tell you my thoughts on the debt limit. Republicans are very fond of talking about how the government should run its finances like a family or a small business would. I’m actually quite fond of that idea myself.

Do you know what happens when a small business or a family defaults on their credit payments? They get their interest payments jacked up. When you are a talking about an entity with over $16 trillion in debt, any flirtation with default is, to say the least, foolhardy, at worst, stupid. Look, clearly the President grew a spine sometime in the past year and he’s not going to cave to pressure from you guys like he’s done in the past. It’s clear he’s not going to stand for your tea party shenanigans this time around. You and the GOP talk a lot about fiscal responsibility. Well, the responsible thing to do in this situation is to raise the debt limit. Because even 1% of $16 trillion is a LOT of money. Yes, we can’t afford to keep spending the way we do, but we also can’t afford to get our interest rates jacked up for no good reason, either.

It’s also worth noting that the debt is not the fault of the President, it’s the fault of Congress. You pass a budget and the President has to spend it. You pass taxes and other revenue and the President can’t collect any more than that (sometimes you get lucky and your AIG stock goes up higher than you thought, but you can’t count on that). Your spending far outstrips your revenue, so the only way to resolve that is to borrow money. So the President does what he has to do to meet all of his obligations under the law, but Congress throws one more monkey wrench into the works: you also pass a debt limit that doesn’t cover all the spending you required over and above the taxes you’ve approved. Dirty pool if you ask me.

Raise the debt limit without strings or explain in the primary why we’re now paying even more interest when we could continue to borrow at rock bottom rates.

Waking up to a shut down government

Waking up to a shut down government.


A kindred spirit! Yay!

Shut Down!

My congressman is one of those who is insisting that the President and the Democrats give up a victory they’ve fought and won in both the Congress and the Supreme Court. Here’s the letter I sent him:

Leaving aside for a moment the merits of the ACA debate, this show down over a shut down is ridiculous. Your first offer was that he give up on his signature program, a victory in both Congress and the Supreme Court in exchange for what? A whole 45 days of government continuing to run? What a bad trade. Imagine someone wanted you to compromise on the 2nd amendment, would you cave for a measly 45 days? Of course you wouldn’t! Especially considering that in another 45 days they’re going to come back demanding more concessions to get the next 45 days. And every month or so after that, they’re going to ask for another concession. No one in their right mind is going to accept a crummy deal like that. And the GOP looks idiotic for expecting that he might.
What the House Republicans don’t seem to realize is that for the President and the Democrats, the fight now isn’t even really about Obamacare anymore, it’s about protecting the government from being held hostage.
If you want to take some kind of bite out of Obamacare, you’re never going to get there through the continuing resolution or the debt limit. You might be able to get away with a one-year delay in the individual mandate in exchange for a whole year budget. Maybe. But whatever you do, you’re going to have to make some kind of concession to show you’re willing to negotiate in good faith. Shutting down the government is not a show of good faith and you hurt your ability to get anything with each minute that passes.

I have plenty to say about the merits of the healthcare debate; we can talk about that later. For now, I’d just like to see the GOP quit shooting itself in the foot on a fool’s errand.

Really, I can see where representatives who have been elected by gerrymandered districts with the most radical voters being really the only voice they need to listen to, would not want to look like they are weak against the President. They are protecting their own re-election bid and I understand why they would want to do that. But protecting themselves, in this case means losing the White House next time around. And the longer these Tea Party types remain in control, the longer it will take to put together a White-House-winning coalition. Eight years ago the Republicans were talking about a permanent majority. Now they face the prospect of a permanent minority. We need to stop being a stupid party.

More letters to Congress

I’m in another round of writing to my representatives and senators about the NSA and surveillance. The following is what I sent to John Cornyn. Repeat letters to Senator Cruz and my representative are an abbreviated version of this, but all carry essentially the same message.

The AP is now reporting based on officially provided documents that the NSA not only gathered more data than they were legally authorized, continued to do so after they were told not to, but made lame excuses for doing so when the FISA court had to review them again. I have to say, rather than being comforted with the “transparency” of the Administration, I’m less and less likely to trust that no one is doing unethical or illegal things with this data. The story points out that there isn’t evidence that anyone is intentionally infringing on anyone’s privacy but that’s small comfort. If someone were intentionally abusing power, they would take steps to keep it hidden. And unintentional violations of my privacy are just as bad if not worse. If you can unintentionally invade my privacy, your processes are not well designed and easy to abuse. When we are talking about Federal power, easy to abuse is a fatal design flaw. True conservatives understand that.

Considering that the Founders were of the belief, from personal experience, that you could not trust a strong central government and therefore built a structure that you shouldn’t ever have to trust, I’m asking you what are you going to do to protect my rights as enumerated in the Bill of Rights (I mean in addition to my 2nd Amendment rights. You’re strongly on the record in that instance)?

You took an oath to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. I know you take that oath seriously. There is no greater threat to our constitution and our way of life than this regime of surveillance. I’ve contacted my congressman and your colleague Senator Cruz and was disappointed that they both have bought into what I can only describe as a liberal trust in the Federal Government’s forbearance, a trust that neither of them are willing to subscribe to on the topics of health care/Obamacare or the Second Amendment.

I am really surprised (though why I didn’t see it coming is an excellent question) that these vocal critics of government overreach in certain areas are fine with government overreach in surveillance.

And now I’m thinking about reaching out to other representatives in the area. We’ll see what comes of this.