Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Michigan and Arizona: Did Anything Really Change?

Well the results are in and Mitt Romney can breathe a momentary sigh of relief. As expected, Romney took Arizona by a wide margin. He also managed to win Michigan with a little more breathing room than many were expecting. So, Romney lives to fight another day. He didn’t suffer the embarrassment of losing his “home” state he spent so dearly to try and win, and he’ll likely get a fundraising and momentum bump from the Michigan win since it wasn’t a given like the Arizona win. But other than Romney being able to fight on with the validity of his campaign relatively unquestioned, did the Michigan and Arizona wins really change anything? Not really.
There’s no question that a Santorum upset in Michigan would have made a mess of things for Romney. With his Super Tuesday prospects looking mixed, funding situation becoming much more like that of his opponents, and the hits he has taken to his image nationally, it’s even possible that Romney would have had some calling for him to step out of the race and allow for a stronger, less damaged candidate to take the lead. Luckily for Romney, and potentially the GOP’s stability for the rest of the primary season, that didn’t happen. One has to wonder if the Arizona debate had some effect in Michigan, particularly since Santorum’s edge started disappearing right after mediocre debate performance on his part. Only 35% of respondents in CNN’s exit polls indicated the debate affected their vote, and that segment saw a higher preference for Romney than Santorum, as well as a slight increase for Gingrich. Regardless of the methods or reasons though, Romney wins. Since the momentum of the race didn’t see a big shift in Michigan after all though, we’re still in the same murky waters we were before.
Romney’s still the front runner, his campaign just isn’t as well off financially as it used to be and his image issues haven’t improved. Santorum is still loud and unpredictable and apparently doing a decent job appealing to the tea party and harder-line religious conservatives. Ron Paul is still trudging on and still has no immediate prospects for winning a state. Gingrich’s apparent strategy to pretend February, outside of a debate, doesn’t exist still has pundits and his supporters sitting on the sideline wondering if that gamble can possibly pay off. 
And that’s pretty much it. No big changes happened or should be expected before Super Tuesday. There’s no reason for anyone to drop out or consider dropping out, and there’s no new momentum to give any particular candidate a big bump going into Super Tuesday. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. It’s far from over.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Keep an Eye on Michigan...

So now CNN is reporting that Democratic voters are being encouraged, both by Democratic strategists and Santorum himself, to go out and vote for Santorum today, Michigan could be very interesting. If he doesn't win, Romney is probably in trouble. If Santorum wins, this thing is going to be even more complicated and Super Tuesday could be huge. Any way you cut it, Michigan is going to have a pretty significant impact on both the Santorum and Romney campaigns.
More to follow the results.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Arizona Republican Debate- Who Won?

I’ll keep my post debate review relatively short for once, primarily because I’m running really short on sleep and we’ve all proven (repeatedly) that trying to predict an outcome in this GOP nomination contest is impossible.
Last night’s CNN Republican nominee debate in Arizona was the first Republican debate in a long time and the only one for some time to come. Lots has happened since the last debate (Santorum victories, Romney’s slip in the polls, Gingrich’s slide, etc.) so a lot of eyes were on this one to see four things based off each candidate. I’ll list them below and provide my “answer.”
1- Can Rick Santorum command the debate stage as a front runner and give people a reason to continue driving his momentum through Super Tuesday and beyond? 
No. Santorum stumbled over himself again tonight (like he has in earlier debates) and did not project the confidence, composure, or grasp of the issues (or his own past statements) to give undecided GOP voters any reason to support him. He’s been receiving a lot of mixed reviews for his performance tonight, and that’s a loss in itself. He needed to project confidence and the composure to be president, and he failed. He got some good hits in on Romney, but took a relative beating on his record in the process.
2- Can Mitt Romney promote a new, friendlier, image and stop his slide in the polls? 
Eh… maybe. Mitt had one of his better debates tonight but it wasn’t spectacular in any way. He had what sounded like his friendliest debate audience ever tonight, and still got himself in hot water with them a few times. He amped up all kinds of rhetoric and is now borrowing lines from all three of his competitors to widen his appeal, but it still sounds like the same old Mitt. The debate didn’t hurt him, but I don’t see any big benefit either.
3- Can Gingrich steal the stage and spark a come back?
Again… Eh… maybe. Newt was on his game tonight, but not as the podium pounding anti-media firebrand we saw after his jump (back) to the front of the polls before South Carolina, instead we saw the Newt many of us missed from the rest of the debate season. He was composed, collected, and once again sounded like the smartest guy on stage with pretty straight answers to the questions asked. The crowd seemed to give him the best net response for the evening, and Rick Perry was on hand for social conservative appeal, but it wasn’t a blockbuster performance from someone who probably needed one. So although the “good” Newt, the Newt that fueled his rise initially, was back tonight, I just don’t know if that’s enough any more.
4- Can Ron Paul convince people he can win the nomination tonight?
No. I’m actually afraid he may have hurt himself a little tonight. Paul has started to sound like a one line anti-war, pro-state-rights candidate. I know he’s not just that, but that’s all he talked about tonight, and although it’s a popular sentiment, the way he talked you’d think if we stopped fighting battles overseasall our problems would be solved. I know that’s not true, he knows that’s not true, and I think the voters do too. Is he right on the issue of removing almost all our international military presence? Maybe, but he also gets some flak for his Iran views that most voters seem to find naive, so it’s a two-edged sword for him. The point is talking foreign policy, which is one of his weakest platforms from a potential GOP voter perspective, doesn’t help his campaign one little bit and he actually missed a key opportunity to sell his small government platform and economic vision tonight. 
That’s all for now. We’ll see how things play out in the upcoming primaries and I’m sure I’ll have lots to say then. As always, feel free to ask questions, provide comments, and so on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Stop Glamorizing the Detroit “Bailouts” and Tell the Whole Story

Jeff is absolutely right on this (read below). And two big things that the people talking about how wonderful the bailouts were for the auto industry neglect to mention- Ford played by the rules, got its house in order before things got really ugly, and wasn’t bailed out. They’ve benefited from government loans and such in the past, but they never got to the impending bankruptcy and beyond doom point that GM and Chrysler did that precipitated their bailouts. So Ford shouldn’t be included in any of these “why we should be glad we didn’t let Detroit go bankrupt” graphics, if anything it should be compared against them. Second, Chrysler’s bailout led to them being a partially German owned company to now being almost 60% owned by an Italian company. Although they’re still huge in the US, calling them an American auto company is like calling Toyota’s American operations an American car company. Arguable, but the head honchos and the biggest shareholders aren’t in the US. I’m thrilled that GM, Ford, and even Chrysler are making better cars and getting their financial houses back in order. I love cars and love seeing “our” companies finally competing in a serious way with the best foreign makes. But graphics like this and convenient over simplifications of what actually happened are a good example of what’s wrong in politics right now.
Why we should be glad we didn’t let Detroit go bankrupt(like Mitt Romney wanted).
Perhaps the average person thinks that declaring bankruptcy means that you go out of business.  But informed people know that this is wrong.  Bankruptcy can be a method by which a company sheds itself of costly liabilities in an effort to become healthy.  Almost all of the airlines have gone through bankruptcy, and by any measure, they are all better for it.
When Romney (and the rest of us) were suggesting that the auto industry declare bankruptcy, we were suggesting that the automobile industry use the same renegotiation procedures utilized by countless other companies that have returned to profitability.  In other words, we were suggesting that creditors (who chose to deal with the auto industry) take the hit instead of taxpayers (who did not choose to deal with the automobile industry).  We were suggesting bankruptcy as a way to save the industry, not kill it.
All of those sales, jobs, etc., in the graphic above—all of them might have been had if the auto companies had gone through bankruptcy.  And it’s not unreasonable to suggest that the industry might have been better off in the long run if they had gone through bankruptcy.  
Whoever made the graphic above probably knows that the average person thinks that declaring “bankruptcy” means going out of business.  They probably also know that this is wrong, but they still made the graphic anyway.  And the shame of this is that it teaches politicians the worst lesson possible … namely, to lie and pander, rather than talk openly and honestly about real solutions to real problems.

Question from reader: Why Shouldn't Higher Education be Provided by the Taxpayers?

Q:I can't help but notice that you didn't actually give a reason why higher education shouldn't be provided for in the same manner as high school level education, you simply stated that at this point it's not (which is true, but not germane to the point that an educated public is valuable enough to merit taxation to pay for higher education for all).

Sure, I’ll try to address that a little better. The primary reason it shouldn’t be provided by society (taxpayers) in its current form is partially what I already described- the dramatic system changes it would require and the reduced access to most for a higher tax cost to everyone. Some would say, well expand it all the way and don’t reduce access to contain costs. That’s what’s happening in Medicare and Medicaid and we see how well that’s working for the national budget. There is also no economic argument for everyone in the society having a college education, as we do not need bachelor’s degree holders running assembly lines, cleaning offices, etc. but it is also a matter of pure fiscal responsibility. The biggest reason people go to college is to get a better job and make more money over their lifetime. Plain and simple. If you can afford to go for recreational purposes or pure interest purposes, more power to you, but there’s no justifiable reason the society should pay for you to learn about your fields of interest in a formal setting just because you want to, and I don’t know of anywhere in the world that is really done. Either access is greatly limited to only the best students who are then given that option, or much more career focused overall. Nowhere I can find pays for anyone who wants to go to college to go, which is basically what people have been suggesting on here the past couple days. That said, since the biggest reason people go to college is to get a better job, a college education is an investment. It is not a strict necessity to make a living, do well, etc. It’s required for some fields of course (and probably in several it doesn’t need to be), but society does not view it as a requirement to live a decent life, as we do a high school education. Since it is an investment, the student and their family should plan ahead financially, decide how much to invest, and make sure it will pay off. If it’s no longer a fiscally responsible investment for the individual to go to college, there’s no real reason the society should want to invest in it for you either knowing you aren’t willing to.
All people really want is to have the debt and risk of debt removed from them so they can attend college without worrying about these things, but that simply can’t happen in the US system where access is wide open and options are so varied. There’s also no logical reason that the government should take on the risk of investing in your education and future productivity if you’re not willing to do so. That’s where this capitalist vs. socialist/communist argument is going to keep coming up… If you want to have a better job, obtain a higher level of knowledge that will enhance your success in life, etc. then why shouldn’t you be willing to invest in it yourself and take on the risk? So you can no longer afford the ivy league school or private liberal arts school you wanted because they raised tuition? Go somewhere you can afford that still offers a solid education. You don’t ask the government to buy you a nicer house than you’re willing to buy with your own money, or can afford because the housing prices went up, do you? (Okay, some people basically did in the past, but we saw how that turned out haha!) I wouldn’t be taking on about $200,000 in student loan debt for medical school if it was an impossible investment, and I would never ask the government to do that for me either. If students are smart about where they go to school cost wise, the career fields they consider, and work as hard as possible to find ways to reduce the cost of their education, then they should be comfortable taking on the debt or financial responsibility for their own future.
Hope that helps give some insight into my viewpoint.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Why Can't Education Be Free? Because It Isn't.

There’s a lot of Tumblr-noise going on today about the cost of education and whether or not it should be free. I’m not going to argue that the cost of higher education shouldn’t be lower, I think it is growing at an unsustainable rate driven by a variety of forces, but it should be pretty obvious to anyone with basic financial skills why higher education can’t, and in the US system shouldn’t, be free. 
To state the obvious (channeling a little tautology here): Things that cost money cost money. Almost nothing in life, other than perhaps air, is free to provide and as such it’s illogical to say it should be free to use. Things have to be paid for by someone, and the capitalist/US system has long said that people that enjoy the benefits of something should pay to enjoy those benefits. That’s the inherent fairness of capitalism and also its weakness from the socialist/communist viewpoints.
Education is expensive to provide, and getting more expensive. There are ways those costs could be limited and even come down, but people suggesting education should be free are suggesting the government, the same entity already running trillion dollar plus deficits, can somehow take over higher education and provide it at no additional cost to the taxpayers. If that were to happen, access will have to be more limited (the taxpayers/government aren’t going to be as willing to let people go to college just because they want to or study things that have no economic benefit to the society), options will have to be more homogeneous (after all, where’s the fairness in sending student X to a fancy liberal arts school and student Y to a second tier public school if their families paid similar taxes into the system?), and the result of the first two requirements will mean less campuses and fewer students overall. For examples of how “free”, or greatly reduced cost, systems work a look at Germany’s education system would be very enlightening: . Although Germany’s system seems to works well for them and in several ways is the direction the US is silently heading in (the formation of career academies, etc. to replace traditional high schools is an example of this), the access to higher education is much more limited there than it is here largely because the German system demands higher standards overall to get into colleges and their whole education system is far more career focused. The system in the US would have to be totally and completely overhauled for anything like that to work here, and whether you think that’s a good or bad thing, it’s very unlikely and I don’t believe for a second people would be willing to take on a substantial tax increase to support a government run system that may turn them away. 
Whether you’re willing to admit it or not, education as a whole is a business. It provides people with the knowledge and skills not to improve their overall level of enlightenment, but to make more money and contribute more productivity to society. As such, it is an investment on behalf of whoever (whether that be the student or the government) is paying for the education with the understanding that it will result in increased income/productivity from the student in the long run. The government and the states have decided that completion of a high school education is so valuable to the country and the states that it is worth having society pay for through taxes. It has decided that higher education, particularly to low-income students or students studying certain fields, is worth subsidizing. What it has not decided is that the current system, where anyone can go and study whatever they want, is worthy of paying for through taxes all together, and I don’t see why they should. 
As always, your input, comments, etc. are welcome.
Original posts:
This is a naive notion. Granted, I don’t like America’s ubiquitous military presence in the world. We spend far too much money on it and our overreach tends to bite us in the ass in the absolute worst ways (one need look no further than September 11, 2001). However, yes, it is very naive to think that we
1) Shouldn’t drop bombs on nations who are absolute aggressors and dangers to the public at large
2) That education should be free. 
Education shouldn’t be free, absolutely not. Not now, not ever, never ever ever should education be free. Never.
This is literally mind boggling: 
For the 2009–10 academic year, annual prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board were estimated to be $12,804 at public institutions and $32,184 at private institutions.
Between 1999–2000 and 2009–10, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 37 percent, and prices at private institutions rose 25 percent, after adjustment for inflation.
In 2012, student debt because of loans will reach $1 Trillion, surpassing credit card debt as the largest group of debt. Private lenders (like Sallie Mae which holds the most loans, five times more than the second largest lender, Wells Fargo) are unregulated in their practices, resulting in things like charging fees to prove you’re unemployed and having abhorrent interest rates, even as high as 10% and beyond. 
The Student Labor Action Project and United States Student Association are beginning a campaign to help alleviate this one symptom in our failed education system. It is not the end-all of the education crisis, but it is a start, and an urgent one since student debt very well might be the next bubble to burst (one can’t discharge their student debt when declaring bankruptcy) 
Sign the petition here
Fight for not only no debt for students, but for a future with free education for all!
Define aggressive, since we are often the ones to shoot first, or our previous policies of imperialism make it so if we were in their situation, we’d probably want to attack us too. 
And I don’t see why it shouldn’t be free. It is not a business, it is an institution that betters the lives of anyone willing to put in the effort to study and put in the time to gain knowledge to make them a better person and so they can live a better life, it is not so companies can exploit people wanting to make their lives better.
God, giantsteps360 is really taking shit today.
With good reason.
Why shouldn’t education be free? Just answer that. Tell me your opinion. Please. I’m genuinely curious to know.
Source: desmonsters

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Do "Rights" Have to be Free?

Husker Red: Perspectives on Rights

I thought this was well said. I grow weary of hearing people yell about “_____ should be a right!” when what they mean to say is they want something but don’t want to pay for it themselves. That sense of entitlement and lack of fiscal responsibility is part of what is driving this country in a concerning direction. That doesn’t mean that I think anything that costs money to some degree can’t be a right, and I think Huskerred did a good job trying to point out the differences. 
My Tumblr friend and fellow #Politics editor Squashed has written about Conservatives and their views on political rights. His thesis seems to be something along the lines of “Conservatives think that anything which is not free cannot be a right.”
To illustrate his point, he’s provided a…
Source: huskerred

Friday, February 17, 2012

Why YOU Should Care About the SGR

Everyone knows what Medicare is. Everyone knows our seniors currently rely on it to provide health coverage for them. Most have heard a lot of talk in the past couple years about Medicare reform, our out of control spending on healthcare and the pressing need to fix it before Medicare becomes insolvent. But apparently very few people actually know what the SGR is, or why it’s so key to this issue, and that scares me a little.
Before your eyes roll back in your head of boredom, let me point out the SGR affects everyone. If you or your loved ones are on Medicare or Tricare (the military healthcare program), or you know anyone that works for a hospital, doctor, or any aspect of the healthcare system, SGR affects you. So what the heck is it? The SGR is the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate, and it was created in the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. The idea sounded brilliant: a formula to control Medicare spending by ensuring that the per patient cost did not increase faster than the GDP over time. The mechanism used to “enforce” this would be annual updates to physician payments. If a year came in under budget, doctors got paid more the next year for their services. If a year was over budget, they took a cut the next year. Sounds good right? Well, let’s say that the patients start spending a lot more each year than they paid into the system through increased utilization of services. Say Medicare starts expanding services covered that patients can now take advantage of. Say the economy goes to crap and the growth of GDP comes to a grinding halt. Sounds like that formula isn’t going to work out if any of those things happen, right? Well, what if they all happen at once?
The short answer is it becomes a total mess where Medicare spending increases drastically and doctors are told well, this increased spending is no good, so we’re going to have to cut what we pay you drastically. Doctors then point out that Medicare payments over the last decade have been flat while the cost of practicing medicine continues to increase (ironically, some of that increased cost has been directly caused by new Medicare requirements) and they can’t take any cut and still make enough to keep the doors of their practice open. (See graph below, note the effect the 2012 cut could have):
Medicare reimbursment
Too bad, Medicare says, this is the formula and that’s how we control our costs. Congress then steps in and says “this won’t work, if we let that happen then doctors will just quit accepting Medicare and our seniors won’t have healthcare”, and they’re right. Doctors do quit accepting Medicare because of looming cuts, even though most of the serious cuts were never implemented, being avoided at the last minute by congressional action that delayed the cuts for short periods of time. That’s not the point though, the point is the instability this creates for healthcare providers and how it motivates them to just leave the unstable system for smoother waters. Congress sees this happening. But in their infinite wisdom, Congress never decides to try to fix the formula, so each delay simply increases the size of the next cut. The payment cut we were just facing was 27.4%, up from 21.3% last year, and projected to hit over 30% shortly. These cuts have been averted just weeks before the cuts were scheduled to take place, leaving doctors and hospitals not knowing if they will be able to make their budget for the next month or not. No sane person would choose to accept a payment system that threatens to cut their income by over 20% next month, maybe, if Congress doesn’t figure out how to fix it. But that’s exactly what doctors, hospitals, and other clinics are expected to do. Add in that the SGR also directs the Tricare reimbursement rate, which covers all our military families, and private insurers seem to be using Medicare rates as an excuse to cut their own payments, and you’ve got a real mess.
So why doesn’t Congress fix the SGR so that doctors and hospitals aren’t held hostage by the whims of a dysfunctional political body and can do their jobs without worrying if they’ll be able to afford to care for America’s seniors and military families next month? Well… see my previous post. Some people are trying to yell at Congress to fix it, primarily the AMA and other physicians’ and hospital groups. The bulk of what we were asked to do this weekend in D.C. was to ask our congressmen and senators to consider a permanent repeal of the SGR. Naturally, with the financial mess our country is in, a $300 billion+ measure isn’t going to be popular. So the AMA says, why not “pay” for this with the OCO funds (money “saved” by not still being in Iraq and drawing down troops in Afghanistan) and put this issue to bed while Medicare and Congress figure out realistic ways to lower healthcare costs? That’s the question/suggestion I was asked to take to my elected officials, and I did discuss it with them as one of the proposed mechanisms for repealing SGR, but our discussions always came around to the one weakness of both the SGR and the OCO funds: they’re really stupid.
The SGR is a budgetary construct. It says because we spent more than we planned in one year we’ll make it up in the next, but we don’t let that happen because “making it up” would gut Medicare as we know it and the whole thing would collapse. So then we claim the money we didn’t save that year is now “debt” and gets added on to the amount we have to “save” next year, making it even more impossible to ever make it up with “savings” in future years. So you have an endlessly growing pile of somewhat imaginary “debt” because our seniors are using more healthcare services and the GDP isn’t growing. But since we don’t want to appear to be rationing care or telling our seniors “You’re spending more than you ever paid in, this was supposed to be an insurance program not welfare and you’ll have to play by fiscally responsible rules.”, we keep letting this formula float and keep holding healthcare providers hostage. The OCO funds are equally, if not more so, stupid. The “money” in OCO funds is supposedly the savings from not still being in Iraq, etc. So basically our government is saying because we aren’t spending as much as we thought we would, we’re now saving money! Never mind that trillion dollar plus deficit, we’ve got these savings to spend since we didn’t spend as much on war as planned. That’s like me saying that I planned to spend $50,000 I have to borrow on a new car, but I decided not to buy the car so I have an extra $50,000 lying around to spend! And you wonder why our government is a mess?
The point is, the SGR is just as ridiculous as the OCO funds but with the serious side effect of discouraging doctors and hospitals from treating our seniors, military, and anyone else affected by changes in the SGR payment formula. It’s time to stop letting Congress and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services play fast and loose with the future of our healthcare. They need to stop pretending this formula works and get serious about fixing the actual problems driving the increased costs in Medicare. The fixes won’t be politically popular, but the longer we put them off the worse the problem gets and the less likely it is that our seniors and military will be able to have their choice of doctors. You should care about this issue, and you should demand more from the people you elect to represent you. Tell them to fix this and tell them you’ll be watching to make sure they do.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Think the Government is Broken? Blame the Voters.

I spent this past weekend through Monday in D.C. and had the pleasure of hearing from several different political staffers leading up to a few meetings on the Hill about the issues of healthcare in our country. Although all the speakers I heard from were interesting, one in particular made some good points about why our government has been a mess lately and I thought I would share them.
Rodney Whitlock, the health policy director for Senator Chuck Grassley very plainly told us on Monday morning that we had no one to blame but ourselves for the mess and political gridlock in Washington right now. Although there were a few glares from the group at that statement, after he explained his reasoning I had to agree with him. The way he put it, politicians have been elected with a different charge in the last two elections and those two directives from the voters have created two immovable groups of politicians in Washington. In 2008, the voters said “Bush is bad. We want hope and change.” and voted in a group of politicians they felt reflected that. In 2010, the voters said “No, no, not that hope and change. That’s bad. We want you to go up there and stop this.” and voted in a group of politicians that they felt would do just that. So what did we end up with? The 2008 group and the 2010 group being in direct opposition to each other while both groups try not to be the pre-2008 group. 
I hadn’t thought of it in those relatively simple terms before, but I think he was pretty much spot on. The voters have been sending mixed signals to Washington in the last two elections and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that there isn’t much bipartisanship going on right now considering the platforms we elected these people on. Unless we send a clear message in 2012 of “We’re tired of this nonsense, we want some results now.” there’s no reason to expect this to change, either. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Colorado, Missouri, and Minnesota: Bad News for Ron Paul Fans and Romney, Good News for Rick Santorum.

Last night's results were a bit of a surprise to me, as it appears they were to a lot of the pundits too. Santorum winning all three contests? There was a collective "What the hell?" around the internet and TV last night, and there are some big implications for future contests despite the initial opinions of pundits that Tuesday wasn't that important. Here are my thoughts:

Santorum just got a huge boost of momentum. Although Missouri's primary was basically an expensive hollow gesture (, he racked up almost 140,000 votes there, more than twice that of Mitt Romney, and won every county. Every one. Okay, so he's the only one that really campaigned there and Gingrich wasn't even on the ballot, but it's still a huge dose of campaign ad friendly momentum. There was always a chance he'd do well in Minnesota and he did a relatively good job campaigning there too, but his margin of victory over Ron Paul was bigger than anyone I know of predicted. And Coloradowell that just blew me out of the water. That was highly unexpected by most and a blow to Romney and Gingrich. Santorum got a 3 state (2 that actually matter) sweep tonight, and you better believe you're going to be hearing about it for the next couple weeks.

Romney just took a big hit to the "inevitable candidate" image by not just losing one state to Santorum, but multiple ones, and he lost them pretty significantly overall. His campaign ad machine will no doubt take a renewed focus towards attacking his campaign in the upcoming Super Tuesday elections and beyond if things continue in this fashion, but he's going to have to start increasing his overall likability and getting punches in without causing his negative numbers to skyrocket again. Although he is probably still the most likely candidate, I don't think he's going to coast to the nomination like so many expected and I think the ride there (if he gets there) may render him unelectable come November.

Paul fans are in trouble if they still think he can win the nomination. Ron Paul said before Florida that he was putting his focus into caucus states, and he has done a lot of campaigning in Nevada, and made some reasonable time investment in Colorado and Minnesota compared to the others. He even thought he was going to win Minnesota. Despite all that work, he hasn't even come close to winning a state. Sure, his most loyal fans will point to Minnesota or New Hampshire and say "He placed second! That's really good!". Well, sure. But you're not going to win a nomination that way, and those second place performances were his strongest by far to date. He also is highlighting that recent poll showing him placing second nationally behind Romney. I'd offer the sliding Romney likability numbers and his barrage on Gingrich as what you have to thank for that, not anything new that Dr. Paul has done. Yes, I realize there are a lot of primaries still to go, but Ron Paul is the only candidate that hasn't been able to garner enough appeal and support to win a state so far and there's no reason at this point to believe he will be able to in the future. He can't seem to get any momentum going no matter how much time he spends in a state that should be friendly to his views. So my words of warning to Paul followers: Ron Paul is happy to continue this all the way to Tampa with the goal of showing up with as many delegates as possible and making some noise for his beliefs. If that's what you want, continue to donate to his campaign and support that ideology. But you should know that it now appears he's not expecting or planning to win the nomination or being the next President of the United States, so keep that in mind when voting.

Gingrich also had a disappointing night. Although he put little effort into the recent primaries and seems to be placing all his bets on Super Tuesday (a strategy I'm skeptical he has the ground game to pull off), he was at one point projected to potentially win Minnesota or place second, instead he came in fourth. He was supposed to be able to have a good showing in Colorado, and he's nearly tied for last with Dr. Paul. His performance is below expectations but with how little effort he put into these states, it's hard to say what this really means overall. So the question for Gingrich and his supporters now is: Can he pull off an aggressive nationwide campaign for Super Tuesday and grab the momentum back (and some all important delegates)? With Santorum given new life once again and Paul's supporters firmly in their camp, it's going to be difficult.

So instead of a one man race, or a two man race, we have three "front runners" and an overall four candidate circus underway. I hope you bought ringside tickets.

Feel free to comment or ask questions. Just no glitter bombs, please. (Seriously, what is that supposed to accomplish other than make our candidates look like vampires in a Twilight movie?)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Sad Spectacle of Obama's Super PAC (reblog)

Robert Reich: The Sad Spectacle of Obama's Super PAC

This post from Robert Reich is well worth a read. Campaign financing is going to be crazy this election, and no candidate has the high ground when it comes to the Super PAC issue, no matter how much President Obama may have tried to claim it early on.
It has been said there is no high ground in American politics since any politician who claims it is likely to be gunned down by those firing from the trenches. That’s how the Obama team justifies its decision to endorse a super PAC that can raise and spend unlimited sums for his campaign.
Source: robertreich

BarackObama can pretend the Super PAC flip is necessary, but I'm not buying it

My newest reblog/response is to ryking on the issue of Super PACs.
Unfortunately the moral high ground for the Obama campaign on Super PACs has been nullified by their decision to support Priorities USA. Politifact has given him a “Full Flop” on this issue. I know his campaign is saying it’s so they won’t fall behind in funding, but for a campaign that was able to raise over $650 million on it’s own before aid kicked in from the DNC and the new laws were in place, I find that very difficult, borderline impossible, to believe. The reality is the Obama campaign will likely be able to out raise their Republican opponent regardless of whether they give their blessing to a Super PAC or not, but like the Republicans the Super PAC will allow some of their key donors to donate huge amounts relatively secretly, and that’s what they want. The reality is the candidates, especially the President, love to claim to hate these Super PACs, but they really love that it can keep their biggest contributors and potential sources of influence secret. 
If you’re wondering why this donkey looks so outnumbered: here’s everything you need to know about Republican Super PACs and this year’s election.
(via ryking)
Source: barackobama

Prop 8 Is Overturned... What Does It REALLY Mean?

As anyone with a radio, TV, or internet connection is now aware, the 9th District Supreme Court in California ruled today that Proposition 8, passed in 2008, is unconstitutional. There are a lot of opinions flying around today about what this means and how significant the ruling is, so I'll offer my take on this and hope some of you find it interesting.

First, there's the issue of whether this was the right decision or not. Although I don't love some of the things the 9th Circuit court does, I do think their decision to overturn Prop 8 was the correct one. Before some of you start sending me angry messages, think this through. The court overturned Prop 8 because they felt it was unconstitutional and served no purpose other than to lessen the status of same sex couples. The excerpt from the opinion being quoted the most right now is by Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who said: Proposition 8 serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples". Although some of his wording certainly injects some non-legal opinion into the ruling which will certainly rile people up, the core issue here is that Prop 8 really did not serve any purpose in the first place other than to deny use of the word "marriage" to homosexual couples after letting them use it previously. In addition, California already had existing domestic partnerships for same sex couples granting them "the same rights, protections, and benefits" as opposite sex couples under California law. Prop 8 didn't affect this. Although this has also been the subject of much legal attack and debate, it highlights how muddled the situation in California apparently is. Also incredibly important to the decision was that same sex marriages were performed in California leading up to the passage of Proposition 8. These were granted after the courts overturned the law from Prop 22 in 2008, a fiasco it would have been hard for the court not to consider in this decision. The simple fact of the matter is that Prop 8 really wasn't much different than Prop 22, but the effort behind Prop 8 was to make a previously unconstitutional law constitutional by changing the state constitution. Make sense? Although I won't go into the motives behind Prop 22 or Prop 8 since that's a long discussion well beyond the scope of my opinion on the ruling, I will say it doesn't make sense for a state to decide that it's legal for same sex marriages to occur under the constitution and strike down one law on the subject and then later say those marriages shouldn't have happened because a popular vote changed the constitution to say the same thing as the previous law. As such, I think Judge Reinhardt was correct in saying "All parties agree that Proposition 8 had one effect only. It stripped same-sex couples of the ability they previously had possessed to obtain from the State, or any other authorized party, an important right – the right to obtain and use the designation of ‘marriage’ to describe their relationships. Nothing more, nothing less. Whether you think it's a "right" or not, the fact remains that Prop 8 was the same mess as Prop 22 coupled with attempting to prevent a designation being provided to new same sex couples that had already been provided to thousands of couples.

Second, there's the much larger issue of what this means in the grand scheme of things. There are a lot of people very excited about it, saying that this is a huge step towards the nation recognizing same sex marriage. The California Attorney General and Lt. Governor were quick to call the decision historic and make predictions about its significance. Unfortunately for them, I think their optimism and opinions about the significance of this are probably misplaced or overstated. There are a few reasons that this isn't as historic as people think, not the least of which is that this isn't the first time California has struck this idea of marriage only being a man and a woman down. Prop 22 was struck down, and with that in mind, it was pretty logical to assume Prop 8 would suffer a similar fate if the decision behind 22's repeal was sound. Yes, it was struck down more quickly than 22 was, but other than that there just isn't that much more significance in this decision. It is also very important for those celebrating to keep in mind that the 9th District didn't find marriage as a right that should be granted to same sex couples. The ruling itself actually had very little to do with the institution of marriage itself, but specifically to the application of Proposition 8 to the California Constitution. As such, there may not be much reason for the Supreme Court to even agree to take the case later on, as many Prop 8 opponents are hoping. The scope of the appeal simply doesn't appear to be broad enough to have any real application to the national legal status of same sex marriages, so don't get worked up thinking that you're going to see Supreme Court action on this in the immediate future. The real reason this matters is that it is an election year. Like the repeal of Prop 22 and passage of Prop 8 stirred the issue up in 08, the repeal of Prop 8 pending further appeals could bring it to the national political stage in a big way again in 2012 and that is far more likely to have an impact on the future of these cases than the decision itself.

So to those celebrating, or those outraged, I say this: you might want to tone it down a little. The amendment was struck down for what appear to be very valid reasons, but they're reasons pretty specific to this individual case and the state of California. Your options for seeking change on a national level, one way or the other, rest more on the politicians being put into office during the upcoming elections than this court decision.

As always, I'm glad to hear what the rest of you think on this issue!

Monday, February 6, 2012

How bad is the recession? Hint: It's bad.

Once again I share a post from politicalprof. This chart is pretty interesting and could be a good thing for voters to keep in mind as they listen to candidates talk about the current economic situation.
Job growth in past and current recessions. In case you had any questions about just how big a hole we had dug for ourselves.
Source: politicalprof