Point of View Columns

Egypt – Obama’s Bitter Harvest

That President Obama inherited a perfect storm of economic catastrophes is without question. The collapse of the stock market, the evaporation of the housing market and the evisceration of over 8 million jobs from the American workplace has all been sadly documented.

It is not without value to point out that the witless and venal policies of the prior administration of President George W. Bush contributed greatly to this catastrophe.
The fact that the Obama Administration has begun to stem the damning tide of disaster is a testament to the ability to think strategically and plan for success rather than simply react with empty rhetoric.

Every president of the United States inherits the results of prior policies. They take credit for the successes and are roundly criticized for the failures. Fairness is never part of the political equation and we should give President Obama credit for adhering to the “never complain” part of Benjamin Disraeli’s famous quote.

And now there is Egypt – and Tunisia – and Yemen – and……..? The cause of the turmoil that swallowed up the decades-old regime in Tunisia didn’t begin overnight or during the Obama administration (or the Bush Administration, for that matter).

The fuel for the civil conflagration in Cairo has been gathering in Egypt for over thirty years. The regime in Yemen is tottering only now, but its foundation has always been hollow.

The common thread in these countries is a record of American financial and military support for the ruling regimes. The support has been forthcoming to the tune of billions of dollars – in exchange for “strategic alliances”.

The American policies in support of Israel, against terrorism and in support of the wars against Iraq and in Afghanistan have been buttressed by these and other dubious alliances. But there is a problem.

In signing over blank check after blank check to oppressive regimes (sometimes with only fig leaves of fake democracy), the United States has gained strategic partners but has lost credibility with the people who have had to suffer under the dictator’s boot.

Instead, this country has supported bloated and sclerotic regimes. Like gangsters from any era, they have drained national treasuries of money and depleted the national reserves of hope. And all the while they have done far too little to provide for a better way of life for their people.

This has been a bipartisan global disaster as Republican and Democratic presidents have followed this bizarre and benighted policy over the years and around the world. It didn’t work in Cuba, Vietnam, Haiti or Chile, and it isn’t working in Egypt, Yemen or Afghanistan.

It is truly ironic that a country projecting itself as a beacon of freedom has paid for the extinguishing of freedom’s flames in too many countries. In Cairo and Alexandria these flames are now consuming the rickety and aged structures of a regime that has outlived its time. The bearers of these torches may not be so inclined to forgive and forget American complicity in their misery.

The Obama Administration must now work on parallel tracks. There are the immediate infernos in Egypt that must be attended. The United States cannot sit by. It is a daunting task to be sure.

But it is also important for President Obama to get it right going forward. The policy of paying for strategic support and turning a blind eye to injustice was doomed from the start.

At some point people who are denied progress and change through peaceful means will resort to violent means. And in many instances that violence will be directed not only against the oppressor but also against the paymaster.

To make sure that Americans do not continue to reap the bitter harvest that comes from supporting dictators, plutocrats and oppressors the Obama Administration must find a new way of going forward.

Just like the economy, the old ways just won’t work anymore.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – January 28, 2011

The first month of the new year has seen the renaissance of the Obama presidency, a massacre in Tucson and revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Looks like 2011 is off to a flying start:

A Tale of Three Justices

Tradition holds that for the State of the Union address all of the members of Congress, the Cabinet (save one Secretary for security purposes) and the Justices of the United State Supreme Court are in attendance.

For the attendees it is not an optional event, it is part of the job. Attending doesn’t indicate political or philosophical support for the President; it is a matter of respect for the institution known as the government of the United States.

Somehow three Supreme Court justices didn’t get the memo. Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas did not attend -Justice Scalia having accepted a speaking engagement in Hawaii that conflicted with his being present in Washington on that day.

The fact that these three neo-con icons saw fit to disrespect the President and the institution that they represent should come as no surprise. They have routinely imposed their right wing political vision in the guise of judicial pronouncements.

The theft of the 2000 election by Justices Scalia and Thomas will go down as one of the great heists in history. The institutional damage to democracy in this country wrought by the three of them in the Citizens United decision is beyond calculation.

The absence of these Three Judicial Amigos was little noted but it should have been. Chief Justice John Roberts is no less a conservative than Scalia, Alito and Thomas, but at least he had the decency and respect to be present last Tuesday.

I guess they didn’t get the memo.

Along Comes Ms. Bachmann

At the beginning of this year’s Congress Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota was appointed to the House Intelligence Committee. For anyone familiar with Ms. Bachmann’s mindless ranting and raving this sounds like a punch line waiting for a joke. But its no joke, it is true.

This is a member of Congress who has called President Obama and his supporters Un-American and has publicly stated that the “Founding Fathers” were always against slavery. Of course, these would be the same Founding Fathers who were slave owners (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson among many, many others).

She claimed that President Obama’s recent trip to Asia cost $200 million per day (a lie). And she is now conducting an ongoing seminar on constitutional law for members of Congress – one of her faculty members is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (can you say “conflict of interest” or “impropriety”?).

And, by the way, she is contemplating running for the presidency. I just don’t believe that Barack Obama could be that lucky.

Alternative Universe

Anyone watching the State of the Union address saw newly enthroned House Speaker John Boehner looking like a man who had swallowed a lemon and had a train to catch. I hope he doesn’t play poker because he doesn’t have a poker face.

He was clearly not pleased to have to listen to President Obama for almost an hour.
He also wasn’t listening.

The entire planet heard the President say “…..the United States is the greatest country in the world…” Then within 48 hours Speaker Boehner was quoted as saying that Barack Obama doesn’t believe in American “exceptionalism”.

Huh? We know that John Boehner is addicted to smoking cigarettes and that smoking is bad for your health. Obviously it is also bad for your hearing.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

(What a) State of the Union

President Obama in delivering his State of the Union message has wisely chosen to speak to the future of this country rather than the past. When he was inaugurated in 2009 he inherited a country that was mired in two unwinnable wars while watching its economy simultaneously implode and explode.

There is no doubt that the economic downturn has abated only slightly and only for a few. Most Americans are learning that there is something worse than losing a job –the fear of never getting a job again.

The herculean efforts of the Obama Administration to turn the tide of financial wreckage and shattered confidence have not been a complete “fix”, of that there is no doubt.
But there is also no doubt that the G.O.Tea Party do-nothing-let-the-free-market-prevail approach to America’s ailing economy would have had brutal results, with all but the wealthy being exempt from the pain.

That President Obama would be criticized by those who would have stood by while General Motors disappeared, countless millions lost their homes and jobs and the country as a whole suffered the numbing fear of tomorrow would be ironic were it not so tragic.

In his State of the Union address President Obama has chosen not to point out that the American tragedies and disasters over which he presides are not of his own making and are not the results of his policies or his philosophy. Were he to state this simple truth it would be mere moments before John Boehner or Michelle Bachmann or Eric Cantor would accuse him of “whining” and “refusing to take responsibility”.

So Mr. Obama has but on his big boy pants and stepped in front of the American people to take ownership of the problems that beset these United States. Only by taking ownership of the problems can he also take ownership of the solutions. But not everyone needs to be so restrained and reserved.

In point of fact the economic collapse which continues to erode and corrode and degrade the American belief in tomorrow was not the result of some cyclical market adjustment. The policies of the Bush-Cheney administration created a no-fault, no rules casino-like environment in the financial marketplace.

Regulators appointed, empowered and directed by Republicans turned a blind eye, looked the other way or didn’t even know where to look while a Rube Goldbergesque finance edifice was built that was guaranteed to come crashing down.

And when it did crash, it didn’t crash on the bankers and their enablers; it crashed on factory workers and homeowners and fixed income seniors. And, sad to say, most of the victims are still trapped in the wreckage.

That the Bush-Cheney administration and the Republican Party are able to treat this shameful episode in American history as an act of God, not unlike a hurricane or a tsunami is a tribute to their ability to avoid the truth while not actually lying. And it is an indictment of the media and the writers of history who accept this very Grimm fairy tale as being true.

What President Obama did not say in his State of the Union message is that the American economy has been seriously damaged by the godforsaken war in Iraq which drained billions of dollars out of this country with no consequent increase in security.

The President will not say that the Bush-Cheney Administration lied and deceived the American public and most of the world in stomping towards the killing ground that Iraq was to become.

Dick Cheney’s former company, Halliburton, made billions of dollars in profits while American soldiers and Iraqi men, women and children died. The Republican Party stood shoulder to shoulder while American men and women were chewed up and spit out by the monstrous war has become yet another Grimm fairy tale.

And this war, with its trillion dollar cost, combined with a jerry-built economic marketplace, caused the downfall of the American economy. President Obama did not choose to cast blame in this State of the Union message, but that doesn’t mean that there blame should not be cast.

George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and the G.O.Tea Party are counting on the American public having the attention span of a goldfish. That way they don’t have to lie, they just have to act as if they are not responsible.

In point of fact they are irresponsible. President Obama did not say it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – January 22, 2011

The aura of Chinese “Tiger Moms”, the hypocrisy of repealing healthcare and a Sarah Free February pledge, these are all part of this weekend’s Point of View.

“Tiger Moms” to the Rescue?

The January 8, 2011 issue of the Wall Street Journal contained the single most widely read article in the 100+ year history of the publication. The topic wasn’t chicanery in the banking system or an analysis of the global economy; it was “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”.

The article details a rigorous and fully disciplined approach to parenting that the author, Professor Amy Chua of Yale School, contends is responsible for the academic success of her children and millions of other Chinese children – both here in the United States and in China.

The ensuing hotly contested debate was predictable. The defenders of the “western” approach have launched a full throated protest against what they contend is a barbarous and abusive approach to raising children.

The supporters of the so-called “Tiger Moms” stress the statistical proof of the academic success of their progeny as being a definitive and absolute justification – the ultimate proof of the end justifying the means.

I would recommend that you take a few minutes to read Professor Chua’s article. It is much too easy to mythologize or demonize the Tiger Mom approach to parenting. I would also suggest that you take a look at some other statistics – like the ones that show American schoolchildren underperforming when compared to their peers, not only in China, but in almost every developed country on this planet.

The globalization of the economy has also brought about the globalization of competition in almost all walks of life. American children may be less prepared for this competition than their parents and grandparents and that would be a sorrowful legacy to convey.

Healthcare Hypocrisy

Last week the House of Representatives voted to repeal the healthcare bill passed by Congress in March of 2010. In a high and righteous dudgeon, the new Republican majority congratulated itself in firing the first salvo in the battle to repeal “Obamacare” because, in their view, the American people do not want the universal, guaranteed healthcare that every citizen of every developed nation on earth expects and receives as a matter or right.

A few true ideologues in the G.O.Tea Party have refused the gold plated healthcare coverage that every member of Congress receives from the day they take office for the rest of their lives – past retirement, indictment and conviction.

But most of the Republican leadership, John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Michelle Bachmann come to mind; have clung to these benefits without excuse, explanation or shame.

It is bad enough and sad enough that as this country continues to slog through an economic morass that Republicans think that symbolic votes to nowhere is what this country needs. It is even worse that they walk the halls of Congress attired in full frontal hypocrisy – healthcare for me, but not for you – is the clarion call of the day for the Party of No.

Sarah Free February

It has been time for Sarah Palin to go for a long time. She was “refudiated” by the American electorate in 2008. She wisely quit as governor of Alaska before the citizens of the 49th state had the opportunity to administer a coup de grace to her political career.

Since then she has absorbed the limelight and spewed illogic, in the process assuming importance out of all proportion to her relevance or intelligence. And then there was the Tucson Massacre.

By clearly demonstrating her narcissism and tone deafness she has forfeited even the pretension to any position of leadership. But, being Sarah Palin, she won’t exit the stage as long as a few footlights continue to shine on her tarnished persona.

So Point of View will observe a “Sarah Free February”. Not another word will be written about her for the rest of this month or for the month February. After that, we shall see.

One more thing – GO JETS!!!!

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

A Message to Sarah P. and Other Rappers

In the United States the First Amendment provides an environment for virtually unfettered expression. In recent years rappers and members of the right wing of the right wing have made full use of this freedom. Consider some of these pearls of wisdom:

“My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”- Ann Coulter
“Don’t retreat, reload!” – Sarah Palin, March 2010
“I got myself a gun,Uh Ohhhh!
Yea, I got myself a gun” – Jay-Z, “Super Ugly”
“I’ll react like an animal, I’ll tear you apart
If the masterpiece was murder, I’d major in art” – 50 Cent, “Gattman and Robbin”

Over thirty years ago the Black Panthers threatened to “shoot the pigs” (referring to the police) and the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) were known for inflammatory rhetoric as well.

But it has been a while since the left wing of the left wing glorified murder, mass or otherwise. And its really hard to find a current instance of liberal and moderate elected officials openly using gun terminology as a part of their political rhetoric.

Rappers have gotten fair criticism and a deserved bad rap for glorifying and inciting violence in urban communities throughout the country. In New York City the Police Department estimates that 90% of the recorded gunshot victims are black and Latino, communities that make up a large part of the audience of the rappers who love their guns and bullets all the way to the bank.

Ministers, community leaders and many members of the right wing of the right wing have regularly denounced rap lyrics as contributing to violence and mayhem in society. I am certain that no one would suggest that multimillionaires like Jay-Z and 50 Cent are actually giving directives to street operatives to shoot and maim. And we would all agree that “Fitty” and all of his bling wearing colleagues are simply exercising their First Amendment right of free speech.

Yet the body bags are regularly filled in urban America. And one has to get a queasy feeling seeing so many young black men in wheelchairs, paralyzed from the waist down by a spray of automatic bullets that may have been inspired by the regular outpouring of music and lyrics and imagery that portrays gunplay as part of life – “keeping it real” as it were.

Rappers like Jay-Z, take no responsibility for the culture of Uzi’s and Glock’s and 9 millimeters that is now as American as baseball and apple pie. And in this regard Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter are no different than any of the other rappers that are out there making their multimillions while spewing forth hateful and violent images that too many people hear and a few people take seriously.

Sara P. and her defenders are absolutely correct in stating that there is no direct connection between her rifle scope “targeting” of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords while urging her supporters to “reload” and the Congresswoman being shot in the head by a (presumably) deranged gunman during the Tucson Massacre.

But this is a culture that exists in an environment of viral communication.
The rifle scope “target” map was broadcast over the internet and around the world. Who knows who saw it and incorporated a not so subtle message into a twisted directive? Sarah P. tweets to millions who in turn use a multitude of media tools to pass on the message without nuance or caution.

And then one day a gunman shoots a member of Congress. Last year another (presumably) deranged man flew his plane into an IRS building in Texas. This suicide bomber wanted to strike out against “big government” and his interpretation of the message that he heard from Sarah P., Rush Limbaugh, Tim Pawlenty, Michael Steele and so many more created a perspective that made a suicide flight into a federal building a logical next step.

Some rappers have realized that their glorification of guns and violence has been taken too seriously by their audience and too many people have died as a result. Some have toned down their message recognizing that overheated lyrics can have unintended consequences.

Perhaps Sarah P. and some of her supporters can recognize that there is a Law of Unintended Consequences at work all around us. If Sarah Palin is intent on being a rapper at the very least she can become a responsible one.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – January 14, 2011

We try to make sense of the Tucson Massacre and immediately there are too many voices saying too many things. Sometimes it is not possible to make sense out of nonsense yet we are compelled to try.

Barack Obama for President

During the aftermath of the Tucson Massacre there was some very real question about what President Obama should say and when he should say it. Having given the obligatory statement of remorse and regret he made the personally courageous act of flying to the scene of the crime to deliver what can only be described as an oratorical masterpiece.

He was able to blend themes of grief, compassion, exhortation and promise. President Obama has been criticized during the past year as being aloof and “cool”. On January 12th he touched the hearts and minds of Americans, not only those in attendance in the Arizona University field house. During that thirty minute speech he reminded all who listened as to how and why he was President of the United States.

His ability to articulate the emotional and psychic architecture of the American public is remarkable. That he could do so with so many disparate forces at work in Arizona resulted in a truly memorable address.

This week Barack Obama reasserted himself as President and Commander in Chief by providing leadership in a moment when it was truly needed.

The Decline and Fall of Sarah Palin

This past week also saw the beginning of what I predict will be the precipitous decline and fall of the political career of Sarah Palin. There is an expression about pride going before the fall. Ms. Palin’s pride is certainly precipitating her fall.

Knowing that one of the finest orators in modern American politics was going to give a speech on Wednesday evening, Sarah Palin decided to release a videotaped statement on Wednesday morning. And it was a disaster – for her.

She could have chosen to express compassion for the victims of the Tucson Massacre and left it at that. She could have chosen to call upon all actors on the political stage to turn down the rhetorical volume if only out of respect for the losses suffered by fellow Americans.

Instead, she employed a Fractured Fairytale version of American history, trying to channel the intentions of the Founding Fathers while justifying her reckless and remorseless assault on the sensibilities of the American public.

She refused to acknowledge the viability of the concern of many that her placing a cross-hair target on the office of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was, at the very least, an unwise act. Of course, one of the many who had that concern was Congresswoman Giffords, one of Sarah Palin’s “targets”.

That one of Ms. Palin’s targets was shot in the head may just be an ugly coincidence. Given the tortured brain patterns of the accused killer, we may never know. But the ugliness of the coincidence would be enough to give one pause. Unless that one is Sarah Palin. For more on the connection between words and deeds in today’s culture please go to this link – http://hiphopandpolitics.com/2011/01/11/rappers-catch-heat-for-inflammatory-words-why-cant-sarah-palin/

Somehow Sarah Palin sees the aftermath of the Tucson Massacre to be all about her. Her narcissism ranks with Snooki, Paris Hilton and Kanye West. But none of them presume to speak seriously about the issues that are important to the future of this country. It is past time for Sarah Palin to show similar restraint. For details on her outright attempt to change the subject in her recent video please go to this link – http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0111/47588.html

And, as if the hole she dug wasn’t deep enough, she excavated some more by referring to criticisms of her as being a “blood libel”. With those words Sarah Palin showed that she not only has she no shame, she also has no sense of good taste.

It is time for her to go.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Sarah Palin is Today’s Lady Macbeth

When you think about it, the Tucson Massacre on January 8th had to happen. It was just a matter of time. There has been so much violent and vile rhetoric flying through the airwaves and the internet that it was only a matter of time when it would be bullets instead of words whizzing through the air.

Last year Sarah Palin published a map on her Facebook site which “targeted” twenty members of Congress for defeat. In “targeting” these elected officials she cunningly used the visual of the crosshairs from a rifle scope. For those who still didn’t get the point, she exhorted her followers to “reload” as they went after their prey.

One of the twenty “targets” was Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who received a bullet through the brain as eighteen other citizens, including a nine year old girl, were mowed down in a hail of bullets. Having the misfortune of falling afoul of the self-proclaimed Momma Grizzly, Congresswoman Giffords was shot in the head.

Almost before the gun smoke cleared, right wing of the right wing apologists flocked to microphones to proclaim the Tucson shooter to be a lone “madman”. A representative of Sarah Palin stated that “we never, ever, ever” intended the crosshairs targeting elected officials to encourage someone to shoot anyone. Others urged patience until it could be determined what the actual motive of the killer might be.

Sarah Palin has been winking at calls to kill President Obama that are shouted by her adoring beige shirts. She endorsed and supported Sharron Angle’s candidacy for United Senator in Nevada even after Ms. Angle called for “Second Amendment” solutions to reform government and urging her followers to “take out” Senator Harry Reid.

No one will ever know what has been coursing through the mind of Jared Lee Loughner. No one will ever really know what went through the mind of John Wilkes Booth or Lee Harvey Oswald or Mark Chapman or James Earl Ray or the Son of Sam. What we do know is that the toxic and gun-tinged rhetoric of Sarah Palin and her ilk has contributed to an environment in which the misguided can take her metaphors literally. The undeniable result is the Tucson Massacre.

Sarah Palin cannot be allowed to wink her way out of this. Her irresponsible use of her celebrity has created a cadre of gun toting, Bible beating, Constitution waving followers who actually believe that she has real answers for the real problems in their lives. And while she basks in their adulation she is also cashing in big time with her books and television shows and speaking engagements.

I have to wonder whether, in the quiet moments just after midnight, Sarah Palin considers the possibility that her words and deeds could have, in some very real way, contributed to the madness that was the Tucson Massacre. While we will all grow old and die waiting for a mea culpa from her, I wonder if she feels any guilt, any responsibility, any remorse.

Could Sarah Palin really go to the astronaut husband of Congresswoman Giffords and convey her sympathies without a twinge of regret? Could she speak to the parents of little girl who was killed and look them in the eye? Could she be so devoid of shame? No one could be that shameless.

It is clearly time for Ms. Palin to exit the public stage. Just as the comet of publicity brought her into view a little more than two years ago, it is time for her to just disappear in the very same, rapid fashion.

She has lost what little credibility that she ever had by reason of her irresponsible language and her inspiration of the worst emotions that dwell in American society –bigotry, prejudice and fear, always fear.

Talk of her running for President of the United States or even having influence over who is chosen will start drifting away just like the gun smoke in the Tucson parking lot.

She is condemned to be a latter day Lady Macbeth. She can wash and wash her hands forever, but the blood of the Tucson Massacre victims will be on her hands.

Just as it was with Lady Macbeth – no one else can see the blood, but it will always be there for her.

It is a punishment that she deserves.

Be My Guest

Be My Guest Column by Congressman Gregory W. Meeks

A New Year and New Possibilities

Politically, the closing out of 2010 and the dawning of 2011 is much more than a transition to a new year. It is the transition from Democratic control of both houses in the 111th Congress to divided government in the 112th Congress with a Republican majority controlling the House of Representatives and the Democrats remain in the majority of Senate.

A Republican majority in the House, which will include 43 Tea Party Republicans, will have profound political implications for New York City, which will lose considerable influence in Congress with the loss of the following committee and subcommittee chairs: Nydia Velazquez, Small Business; Ed Towns, Government Oversight and Reform; Carolyn Maloney, Joint Economic; Gary Ackerman, Middle East and South Asia; Jerrold Nadler, Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties; Jose Serrano, Financial Services and General Government; and me, International Monetary Policy and Trade.

Because any party or president could lose the majority in the next election, President Obama and Congressional Democrats used their control of the House and Senate in the outgoing Congress to concentrate on passing legislation, some of it historic. In fact, Columbia University historian Alan Brinkley says the 111th Congress was the most productive since the Congress that enacted Medicare, Medicaid, the Voting Rights Act, Head Start, the food stamps program, and immigration reform in the mid-1960s.

For example:

▪ The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that experts now credit with preventing the deepest recession in 80 years from becoming the first depression in 80 years, saving or creating 3 million jobs, making investments in education, alternative energy and infrastructure modernization, and providing cities and states with the resources to retain hundreds of thousands of police officers, firefighters, and teachers.

▪ National health care reform which will provide coverage to 32 million more Americans; prohibit insurance companies from dropping people who get sick or have preexisting medical conditions; allow children to remain on their parents policy until age 26; and lower Medicare prescription costs.

▪ Overhaul of Wall Street regulation, including place prohibitions on the kind of reckless and irresponsible behavior that caused the recession and nearly toppled the global financial system.

▪ The Lillie Ledbetter Pay Equity Act which expands women’s opportunity to file lawsuits against pay discrimination.

▪ Modified the federal student loan program to make college tuition more affordable.

▪ Confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan as Supreme Court justices.

▪ Several extensions of unemployment benefits.

For me, there is also a personal dimension to the loss of the House majority. Sixty-three Democratic members were defeated last November. These are friends with wonderful families, impressive records of accomplishment, and noble aspirations.

They lost their jobs for no other reason than putting America first by trying to help their constituents and the country weather the recession while their Republican opponents just said no to anything and everything President Obama and Congressional Democrats proposed.
Immediately after the midterms, many analysts speculated that the results had put the Administration permanently on the defensive and rendered Congressional Democrats irrelevant.

I did not and do not accept this view. I draw strength from the possibility of building on what was accomplished in the last Congress, particularly the lame duck session that brought it to a close.

President Obama’s ingenious compromise with Senate Republicans on extending the Bush tax cuts for another two years in exchange for a 13 month extension of unemployment benefits, a one year 2 percent reduction in payroll taxes, an adjustment in the Alternative Minimum Tax, preservation of the Child Tax Credit, an enhancement of the Earned Income Tax Credit, and continuation of the America Opportunity Tax Credit, will bring relief to millions of Americans and increase the disposable income of tens of millions more.

I strongly supported the President’s compromise because it will help thousands of my constituents and further stimulate the economy. Besides, it is now crystal clear that the opened the way to enacting the most far-reaching child nutrition and food safety legislation in history, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, passage of a bill providing medical coverage and compensation for Ground Zero first responders, and Senate ratification of a new strategic arms reduction treaty with Russia — all on a bipartisan basis.
Divided government makes it highly unlikely that the 112th Congress will feature equivalent legislative accomplishments.

Much depends on whether or not House Republican leaders accept Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s invitation “to find common ground on behalf of all Americans.” The decision of House Republicans to schedule a vote next week to repeal the historic health care reform goes in the opposite direction.

Republicans have the votes to repeal it in the House but not the Senate and even if they did the president would veto it.

Moreover, such theatric appeals to the Tea Party wing of the GOP carry the danger of more gridlock, more obstruction of the president’s agenda, more partisan tension within Congress and between Congress and the White House, and more polarization when the country needs and wants is bipartisan cooperation and compromise in the national interest.

Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – January 7, 2011

The first Weekend Edition of the new year looks at the Republicans and the Constitution as well as the proposed repeal of the health care bill. In some ways today feels like December 38, 2010, but I believe that this is a new year.

A Strong Constitution

This past Wednesday the Republican Party formally took control of the United States House of Representatives. On January 6th the first order of business was for the members of Congress to spend close to two hours reading the Constitution of the United States out loud.

Presumably, this exercise was meant to do more than demonstrate the limited oratorical skills of some elected officials. We have been told that the new Republican majority will adhere to the Constitution and this spectacle was Exhibit A.

The Constitution, which was ratified in 1788, was always meant to be a organic document. It set forth certain precepts and principles but it was never meant to be inflexible. Its uniqueness has been its ability to adapt and evolve.

In the original Constitution slavery was lawful, women could not vote and no individual could vote for a United States Senator. All of these items have been changed, no doubt for the better. And there will certainly be changes in the future.

The mechanical reading of the Constitution made for poor theater and even worse political philosophy. The Constitution is not Scripture and it was never meant to be the governmental equivalent of the Ten Commandments.

The Death of Health Care?

The Party of No is, if nothing else, true to its promise. The new Republican majority in the House of Representatives will vote to repeal the entire health care reform bill on January 12th.

The Senate almost certainly will not go along with this singularly self-destructive strategy and it is safe to say that, in any event, President Obama would veto the madness if it ever made itto his desk.

Already, Congressman Fred Upton, the new chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee has said that he will try to dismantle this legislation “piece by piece” which is a comforting thought.

One wonders if the esteemed Mr. Upton is referring to the “piece” that allows people with pre-existing illness? Perhaps the “piece” that will give over 30,000,000 uninsured Americans health care coverage that Mr. Upton and his family undoubtedly enjoy at this very moment.

Perhaps the Party of No is referring to the “piece” that will allow American business to be competitive with the rest of the world, a world where corporations do not have employees’ health care expenses as a cost of doing business. Of course, that would be because all developed countries have universal healthcare coverage for their citizens.

“Dismantling” doesn’t sound like a very constructive approach. On January 12th the G.O.Tea Party will demonstrate once more that its way is the wrong way.

Have a great weekend!

Point of View Columns

Republican Time Travel

On January 5, 2011 the Republican Party will take control of the United States House of Representatives. The leadership of the G.O.Tea Party has already stated that its first legislative agenda item will be the repeal of the health care legislation that was just passed in 2010.

There are just a few things wrong with this “strategy”. First, most Americans would like to see Congress focus on improving the economy – that means more jobs – and finally face up to the looming budget crisis that is already overwhelming local and state governments.

Second, it is not going to happen. No matter what happens in the House, the Senate is not going to support the repeal of the health care bill. And, by the way, there is the slight detail that President Obama would veto such a bill. So why bother?

Why does the Party of No seem to be so obsessed with going back into time and undoing real or imagined wrongs? We have already heard Republican leaders question the need for the Voting Rights Act and the Civil Rights bills of the 1960’s. Others have suggested that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution should be revised so as not to automatically confer citizenship on any person born in the United States.

Given the tendency of today’s Republicans to want to undo some very elemental aspects of how these United States work consider a few hypothetical questions:

1. If free, compulsory and universal public education for grades K-12 was proposed today, how do you think that Republicans would vote? Given the phalanx of Republican opposition to free, compulsory and universal health care it seems pretty clear that most Americans in the 20th century might not have seen the inside of a school house if today’s Republicans were in charge in the late 19th century.

2. If free and unconditional college education was proposed for over 10 million war veterans today, what would be the response of the Party of No? Given the closed ranks in opposition to federal health care for less than 100,000 9/11 first responders I think that it is fair to say that millions of World War II veterans would have never gone to college, that opportunity being denied by today’s Republicans.

3. If a national highway system was proposed to link this country for purposes of the economy and defense while also stimulating the economy where would the G.O.Tea Party stand? If the near universal opposition of Republicans to the 2009 stimulus package is any indication, we would still be traveling on two lane highways through much of this country.

Think about what this country would be like without a universal public education system for the past century – industrialization and modernization would be a pipe dream at best.

Where would the much glorified American middle class have come from without the G.I. Bill that allowed so many veterans to go to college and pursue professional careers? Who would drive the economy and manage the growth of corporations? Indeed, who would manage the sprawling, primarily agrarian country in the aftermath of World War II?

The suburbs that surround every city in America would simply not exist without the modern national highway system. Indeed, the phenomenal expansion of the South and the West would never have happened.

The fact is that the South and the West are home to the so-called red states. It is also true that many American suburbs are considered to be Republican strongholds. How deliciously ironic then that, if it was up to today’s Republicans, the very programmatic initiatives that gave birth to today’s Republican Party would never have existed.

This is not simply a matter of entertaining alternative history. The mindset and philosophy of the G.O.Tea Party would have blocked or eviscerated most opportunities for progress in this country if they had the chance to do so.
But that mindset and philosophy is now being applied to issues related to climate change, immigration and the reformation of the education system. This country cannot afford this dangerous know-nothing nihilism – the consequences are too awful to contemplate.

In the days to come we can hope that the Party of No will come to its senses. It may be more useful to start thinking about saying no to the Party of No, before it is too late.