Saturday, November 17, 2007

Republicans stall and delay and the E-N blames Democrats

I wanted to pull my hair out this Saturday after reading this editorial in the San Antonio Express-News.
The piece is entitled "Democrats flunk fiscal responsibility" and it unfairly bashes Democrats for being late in passing budget resolutions before the beginning of the new fiscal year.
The editorial starts out by noting the past failure of Republicans to complete their budget work on time while they were in charge of the Legislature. Calling the GOP “fiscally irresponsible,” the editorial goes on to say:

Nothing exemplified that irresponsibility better than the failure of the GOP-led Congress to pass in a timely manner the annual appropriations bills that fund the federal government.
In 2004, Congress passed only one of 13 appropriations on time. In 2005, it passed only two of 12 appropriations on time. Last year, it passed only one spending bill before the 2007 fiscal year began.
With a record that poor, you'd think the new Democratic majority would find it easy to distinguish itself, deliver on campaign promises about fiscal responsibility and burnish its credentials with voters. Evidently, Republicans set the bar too high.
When the new fiscal year began Oct. 1, the Democrat-led Congress had passed no spending bills.

But hold on a minute! First off, this has nothing to do with fiscal discipline. If anything, I guess you could criticize them for their time management skills, but even this would be unfair to Democrats in light of the way the Republican opposition has behaved all year.
As this article from the Center for American Progress makes clear, it has been a Republican strategy this year to gum up the legislative process, slow things down and generally try to make Democrats look bad by throwing up as many roadblocks and legislative delays as possible. The artcile notes that Republicans sponsored 209 amendments to appropriation bills this session, more than four times as many as Democrats sponsored in 2006 when they were still in the minority.
Many of these amendments did not garner majority support from their own party and appear to have been little more than delaying tactics.

All of these efforts in the House did not stop the approval of appropriation measures this year, nearly all of which passed by wide margins. They did, however, delay transmission of those measures to the Senate. Had the House been able to meet its target of completing action on all appropriations by the end of June, which is its normal goal, it would have more than doubled the number of legislative days available to the Senate for the completion of those bills before the beginning of the new fiscal year. As it is, the delays in the House will strengthen the ability of senators allied with the White House to use obstructionist tactics to cause even greater mischief.

And once in the Senate, the appropriation bills are subject to filibusters and cloture votes which Republicans have been employing this year in record numbers according to McClatchy News Service.

The power of a determined minority in the Senate can block completion of the work of the entire Congress, and this power is increasing as the year is passing. Obstruction in one area of legislative activity increasingly affects Congress’ ability to finish its work in other areas. By the beginning of the August recess, the Senate had been forced on 13 occasions to vote on motions to proceed. That is more than six times the average number of cloture votes required over the same time period in the previous two Congresses. Each one of those votes required wasted days that could have been used to consider appropriation measures. Most of the measures that were filibustered eventually passed the Senate by huge majorities, such as legislation fulfilling the 9/11 Commission Recommendations, which was adopted 97-0; a bill improving security in U.S. Courts, which passed 93-3; and the Clean Energy Act, which passed 91-0. The problem in each instance was shutting off the filibuster so that the Senate could do its work.

On the same day the E-N editorial ran, it was reported that Republicans had successfully blocked the Farm Bill with yet another filibuster.

Typically a bipartisan bonanza for rural America, the agriculture policy measure was stalled by a Republican filibuster that summed up the dismal state of relations in Congress. The bill joined an income-tax repair, a children’s health insurance program, energy measures, terrorist surveillance and Pentagon policy — not to mention financing for every agency except the Pentagon — as issues needing attention next month.

Why block a Farm Bill that will ultimately pass with overwhelming bi-partisan support? Simple politics. Sen. Tom Harkin some it up thusly:
“Republicans sense they are going to have a tough time next year,” Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, said. “So any way they can stain Democrats and anything they can do to make this place look dysfunctional and blame everybody for it, they think that is going to help them.”

And obviously the tactic is working when the GOP can play these delaying games and then get the Express-News to publish editorials bashing Democrats for being “fiscally irresponsible” for failing to pass these appropriations bills on time.
My one question is whether the E-N wrote this editorial out of ignorance - not realizing what is really going on. Or if they are well aware of what is happening and are simply playing their part in a coordinated partisan effort.

Friday, November 16, 2007

They love us, they really love us!

This new poll explains very clearly why the Congress has approval ratings rivaling those of President Bush. There are too damn many Republicans in it!

Despite a slew of recent polls findings Americans unhappy with Congress, a new USA Today/Gallup poll finds that the majority of Americans still hold a favorable opinion of the Democratic Party. 54% of respondents viewed Democrats favorably with only 37% holding an unfavorable opinion of the party. The Republicans faired far worse, receiving a favorable opinion from only 40% of Americans while being viewed negatively by half.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

A liberal blogger

It looks like my post the other day ilicited a reaction from my old friends at ATC.

In related news, ATC read Mark Harden points out this statement from a liberal blogger:
The Iraq war was a disaster and no matter what happens from this point forward that fact will not change.
The Left is so open-minded. 
So, by this theory, if no one dies in Iraq tomorrow, that'll be a disaster?  Nice.

That’s funny. Bill is still so upset with me that he won’t even refer to me by name anymore. I’m just “a liberal blogger” now.

Here is Mark’s comment:

Here is a good example of the "stick my fingers in my ears, nyah nyah nyah, I cannot hear about good things happening in Iraq!" psychological denial from the left:

The Iraq war was a disaster and no matter what happens from this point forward that fact will not change. We’ve already spent too much in blood and tax dollars for even the rosiest outcome to compensate. No matter what happens at this point, it was NOT worth it.

"No matter WHAT happens..." Now, there is an "open mind" for ya...

Posted by: Mark Harden | November 14, 2007 at 02:11 PM

To correct their misunderstanding of my post, I did not say that it would be a disaster tomorrow if no one dies. I said the invasion and occupation of Iraq has been a disaster period. And there is no good news that can come out of Iraq at this point that can change that reality for most Americans.
It would be great if the Sunnis and the Shia would all join hands tommorrow and sing “Kumbaya”, but even if they did it would mean little to the average American and would not justify Bush’s decision to sacrifice the lives of thousands of U.S. servicemen and blow through nearly $1 trillion in U.S. taxdollars.
The stakes for the U.S. fell to nothing once it was demonstrated beyond any doubt that Iraq did not pose any kind of threat to the U.S. or event to its neighbors.
The sad thing is that many people saw before the invasion that there was no threat, but the Bush administration was intent on going to war at all costs. Well, now we are finally starting to get a clear picture of those costs and most Americans don’t like it. That is why Bush and the Republicans in Congress have less than a 30 percent approval rating today.

More Bush Budget Bluster

President Bush has issued the 5th veto of his presidency just days after having his 4th veto overridden by Congress.

Bush rejected a $606 billion bill to fund education, health and labor programs, complaining that it is too expensive and is larded with pork.

Wow! $606 billion! That’s a lot of money. Those porkers! But wait! How big a difference is there between this bill and the amount that Bush wants to spend?

He said that the bill spends nearly $10 billion more than his proposed budget

Nearly $10 billion?!? Bush is vetoing this bill and posing as a fiscal conservative for less than $10 billion? That’s chickenfeed compared to the amount that Bush wants to spend in Iraq!

Why $10 billion is so small that the Bush team can’t even keep track of it over in Iraq. That’s about the same amount that they lost track of last year. I guess Bush is going to make up for the money they lost track of in Iraq by chopping it out of domestic spending bills back home. Thanks, Mr. President! You’re incompentent and we suffer for it!

Oh, and then there is this...

At the same time, Bush signed a $459 billion annual Defense Department spending bill that increases the Pentagon's budget 9.5 percent to fund operations other than the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A 10 percent increase (nearly $5 billion) on military spending NOT RELATED to Iraq and Afghanistan. And that is not counting the $200 billion we are spending in Iraq this year alone! So who is spending money like a teenager with his parents’ credit card?

The education-health bill he rejected included entitlement spending for programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, as well as $150.7 billion in discretionary spending. Congress sought to restore $3.6 billion that Bush had cut from those discretionary programs in his proposed budget and add $6.2 billion on top of that, for a net 4.3 percent increase in spending. Among the additions was more money for Bush's own No Child Left Behind school-accountability program.

So Democrats are trying to add back in funds for Bush’s own education program and Bush is vetoing it.

Oh, and Bush is decrying the earmarks in the bill even though some of the biggest pieces of pork are sponsored by Republicans. I suppose if the Democrats wanted to be mean they could make up the $10 billion difference by stripping out all the earmarks sponsored by Republican lawmakers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Billions and billions and billions...

Some interesting news today in the WaPo.
'Hidden Costs' Double Price Of Two Wars

The economic costs to the United States of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan so far total approximately $1.5 trillion, according to a new study by congressional Democrats that estimates the conflicts' "hidden costs"-- including higher oil prices, the expense of treating wounded veterans and interest payments on the money borrowed to pay for the wars.

That amount is nearly double the $804 billion the White House has spent or requested to wage these wars through 2008, according to the Democratic staff of Congress's Joint Economic Committee. Its report, titled "The Hidden Costs of the Iraq War," estimates that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have thus far cost the average U.S. family of four more than $20,000.

Meanwhile, the wingnuts are flustered because more people aren’t acknowledging that the surge has been a success in light of the fewer number of deaths this past month in Iraq. Nevermind that there has still been little to no progress towards the kind of reconciliation necessary to establish any kind of long-term government solution for the debacle over there. I’m thrilled that there are fewer deaths, but since we should have been out of there several years ago anyway it is not something I’m going to celebrate as some kind of vindication of Bush’s policies.
The Iraq war was a disaster and no matter what happens from this point forward that fact will not change. We’ve already spent too much in blood and tax dollars for even the rosiest outcome to compensate. No matter what happens at this point, it was NOT worth it.

At this point, Iraq is like a money-losing salvage operation with the sole purpose of saving face for Bush and Republicans. To claim now that the Iraq invasion was a success would be like someone going out and using modern technology to raise the Titanic from the bottom of the ocean and then sailing it back to England and claiming the voyage was not a disaster after all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The cultural divide

I see from Taegan Goddard's Political Wire that there is a new survey out purporting to show a measurable difference in the forms of entertainment preferred by self-described conservatives and liberals.
According to the survey, conservatives prefer Fox News while liberals like MSNBC and Comedy Central (The Daily Show, Colbert Report). No real surprise there.
But conservatives allegiance to Fox News also carries over to the Fox network despite its heavy reliance on profane, anti-authority shows like The Simpsons, Family Guy and MADtv. However, conservatives definitely do not want their MTV with 82 percent saying they never watch it. Of course, I don’t either since they stopped showing music videos.

The survey seems to bolster some stereotypes by noting that Liberals tend to like “cerebral material” such as documentaries, the arts, and educational programming as well as comedies and dramas. Conservatives, on the other hand, prefer action/adventure shows and sports programming. They also like game shows and reality shows that liberals tend to avoid.
On the music front, liberals like a broad range of genres including world, punk, Latin, hip-hop and rap, blues, reggae, electronica, R&B and soul, jazz, folk and traditional music. But Rock was still the most popular genre among liberals at 67 percent. Conservatives, meanwhile, seem to dislike most forms of music with the exception of country and gospel.
Overall, liberals seem to be more diverse in their tastes while conservatives seem to be most notable in what they won’t watch or listen to.
But I disagree with the sentiment expressed here that “you can safely bet that if conservatives like it, liberals hate it.” I certainly like action/adventure shows and sports as much as the next guy or gal. It’s just not the only thing I watch 24-7 like some seriously close-minded people.

Not so Random Notes

The Express-News has a regular feature on its Op-Ed section every Sunday called Random Notes that hasn't been so random since it was taken over by right-wing columnist Jonathan Gurwitz. And now even more so during the past few weeks when I've noticed that my good friend Bill Crawford is getting credited with contributing items for the section.
Perhaps I'm just overly sensitive, but it would appear now that most of the "random notes" are carefully chosen items meant to either laud President Bush and/or zing the Democrats/liberals.
But I also find it ironic that Bill, who writes the rightwing blog All Things Conservative would now be a regular contributor to the section when he has regularly bashed the E-N on a consistent basis. In fact, his blog used to be called Anti-Express News Blog and he still celebrates to this day anytime there is a story about newspaper circulation numbers going down.
Ironic, but not all that surprising considering the E-N's consistently pro-Republican editorial stances over time.