Friday, June 29, 2012

Jerry Lewis for State Senate

Tonight, I crossed party lines to attend a meet and greet for Jerry Lewis who is running as a Republican for the State Senate in my legislative district.  He is the same person who took out immigration pariah Russel Pearce in a recall election.  He wasn't in my district then, but the lines have been re-drawn and he's in my district now.  He'll be running against Ed Ableser in November, someone who I've spent some time canvassing for already.

I went into the event tonight already with some expectations.  I figured Jerry Lewis was a moderate, was substantive, and would be someone I could, in theory vote for.    And I do have some concerns about Ed Ableser.  I've been told he's a pretty down the line liberal and I've read that he has missed 40% of his votes.  From Robb:
The Arizona Capitol Times reported on voting participation by state legislators. Most of them voted a high percentage of the time. I leave to you whether that’s good or bad.

The worst voting record in the Legislature by far belonged to Democratic state Representative Ed Ableser. He missed nearly 40 percent of the House floor votes.
When legislators miss a lot of votes, they usually have good excuses – personal or family illness, unusual business demands. Ableser, who is running for the Senate this year, had one I hadn’t heard before: He doesn’t like the legislators the voters in other districts elected.
The Capitol Times quotes Ableser as saying: “They’re nuts. The Tea Party has taken over the state and made it a complete mockery. I’m not going to participate in that.”
Well, now. Perhaps Ableser should ask that the election in his district be delayed – so he can see who gets elected from other districts and therefore how much time he really wants to spend doing the job.
 Back to Lewis, I admit I was kind of taken by him.  He's incredibly nice and engaging (though at times a bit long-winded).  He has an impressive resume.  He has really smart, authentically sharing views on immigration that I'm totally on board with.   He seemed to have a pretty strong libertarian ideology but tempered by a ton of pragmatism.   He actually spent several minutes talking with me and my wife, which is a precious opportunity for me and I'm grateful for it.

I asked him point blank his opinion on Obamacare.  I did make the mistake of prefacing my question with a disclosure that my daughter has a chronic illness.  He gave a sensible answer:  it's the law, let's work with it to improve it, but until the Republicans come up with something better, this is what we have.  Having said that, I got the impression he had a tendency to say what he felt people wanted to hear.

The person who hosted this house party attends my church congregation and invited many members of the church to attend. Someone, who I respect, stood up and gave a tearful endorsement for this person as someone who has a pure and honest heart.  Also, he was, at one time, a ecclesiastical leader of my parents congregration and knew my parents by name.

I can easily see myself voting for Jerry Lewis, but I would love to get a chance to have a similar discussion with Ed Ableser before this is all said and done.  I also can't wait to watch the upcoming debates.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

We Need a Free and Open Economy

I use facebook almost exclusively for political conversation.  The other day a conservative fb friend of mine linked the following picture:

Here was my comment:
Which is why we need to be much more concerned with unemployment than with debt/inflation - knowing that there is some overlap of these issues, but not a perfect overlap.
This coincides with and is inspired by a lot of commentary out there that unemployment should be our top priority.  This resonates with me because of my Dad's perpetual unemployment (and underemployment) problems has been a dibilitation that he passed on to me.  Not that I have had my own direct problems with this, but the fear of it has definitely kept me from taking bigger career risks (or any career risk) and has limited from really putting myself out there for far too long.

I'll spare you his response to my comment, but let me give you my out of context follow up to his response:
The overall economy consists of overall buying/selling, consuming/producing. It doesn't matter whose doing it. We're all people afterall whether our paycheck is coming from a gov't entity or a private company, work is work.

You can make the argument that accumulating a bunch of debt forces us to pay interest on that debt, which is why I think there is some overlap between jobs & debt, just not a perfect overlap.

And certainly, if gov't stopped borrowing completely, a bunch of people get laid off in the short term - and there's simply not enough jobs in the private sector, again in the short term, to absorb that.

So, if your priority is debt, you are willing to live with higher unemployment. If your priority is jobs, you are still concerned about debt as it relates to jobs, but you may be more willing to borrow in the short term. Similar to if say, I lose my job, I'm willing to borrow to put food on the table until I can bridge the gap until I find my next job. Food is higher priority for me than debt.

So, Reagan's point, a job is the best social program is something I 100% agree with, which is one reason I think unemployment has more urgency than our debt in the short run.
This is the part of my comment I want to highlight:
 And certainly, if gov't stopped borrowing completely, a bunch of people get laid off in the short term - and there's simply not enough jobs in the private sector, again in the short term, to absorb that.
Ok, this argument makes sense, but then Obama went ahead and issued an executive order to allow young illegal immigrants to stay in the US without fear of deportation.

In his press conference, he gets heckled by some conservative hack complaining that allowing these immigrants legal access to our economy would affect jobs at a time when there are none.  He basically makes the exact same argument as mine, but in this context my impulse is to disagree.

AAAARGGG, a contradiction inspired by my allegiance to team Democrat.  So, what do I do with this insight.  Do I shift on immigration or on government size?  Well, sorry, given those alternatives, I will never shift on immigration.  All things being equal, I want more freedom, less government and less restriction.  I would rather error on the side of the people.

What am I getting at exactly?  Well, even in times of high unemployment, we need to find ways to cut the waste of the government and allow local communities and neighborhoods find ways to solve their problems.  I think there are some problems that demand federal, state, and local government involvement, but where private and non-profit institutions step in, the government should step away.

Laying off people in government jobs that are providing marginal benefit to society can only help our economy, forcing, allowing that person to find a way to make a more positive contribution to the economy elsewhere.  There's not such a thing as too many people.  Our economy is big enough, diverse enough, and vibrant enough to absorb influxes of new people.

I strongly support the Dream Act, and I cannot relate to people who don't.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Are the Republicans trying to Destroy The American Economy?

The answer is no and the point of this post is to explain why it isn't so and to counter the point Mark Thoma makes that the Republicans seem to be purposely sabotaging the economy.:
But the fact that they have flip-flopped time and again on policies they supported when Republican presidents were in office and the economy needed help leads to the strong suspicion that blocking Obama's policy initiatives is a political strategy. The strategy is justified by a story about Keynesian economics being harmful that they clearly do not believe in their heart of hearts (witness, for example, Romney worrying about the consequences of the fiscal cliff, or their knee-jerk appeal to Keynesian principles when defense cuts are proposed). They have also concocted a story where a confidence fairy can make austerity work to support their ideological pursuit of smaller government. But this is quite a departure from the stimulative polices that Republicans presidents have pursued in recent years giving it every appearance of a belief of convenience rather than of true conviction.
I see his point, but here's my counter.  I strongly believe the Congressional Republican leadership are being pushed to their positions by a rather strong, very vocal, and pretty well organized constituency.  If they compromise on a stimulus bill or practically any bill with the Obama administration, they would (and have) faced well-funded primary challenges and many times have lost.

This is also my view of what happened with Scott Walker in Wisconsin.  His state government austerity measures were directed largely at state union workers and he received a lot of sympathy for his actions by Wisconsin voters across the political aisle.  He acted with boldness because he had the political power and support from his voters to do so.  That's why, ultimately, the recall effort failed and its also why Obama stayed clear.

I do believe that the Republican leadership is acting, here, from a position of weakness.  The simple fact is their basic ideology was designed and applicable for a 1980's world:  an economy with stagflation; extremely high tax rates for the highest tax bracket; where the basic facts of globalization have not yet happened; and where the Soviet Union was our primary threat.

Bush Jr.'s, compassionate conservatism agenda was an attempt to modernize, but it was ineffectually administered and was ultimately a failure on many grounds, and the party had no plan B.  Having lost the presidency and the Congress in 2008, they lucked out that they lost political power just as the global economy collapsed, as a result most of the resulting anger and blame for our economic demise has been inflicted on Obama and the Democrats - those who happened to be in power during a long,  dismal recovery. 

The Republicans have been forced into a very narrow box by a rather uninformed constituency.  I don't blame the average Republican voter.  Most people aren't obsessed with politics in their free time and have busy, difficult lives to lead.  It's why we have a Republic and not a pure Democracy, so our leaders can be informed by their voting constituency, but not be totally controlled by them.

The problem with this Republican party we're seeing today is not that they want to destroy the economy, they are being forced into nihilism:  unable to compromise, unwilling to play nicely.  They have lost their ability to lead and are now being led, by their voters.  When the economy improves, this will change.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Blogging the CD 9 Debate

Yesterday I embedded the CD-9 debate and gave a brief summary of the candidates running.  It's a long debate, but I really wanted to blog the debate.  Because it's long, I'll do this in segments.  We'll see how far I'll get each night, hopefully I'll finish.  Segment one begins now:

This forum includes a subset of the candidates running from both parties

Lisa Borowski didn't show because of traffic?  Strange.  Those who did show include Andrei Cherny,
Travis Grantham, Vernon Parker, Wendy Rogers, David Schapira, Martin Sepulveda, Krysten Sinema, and  Jeff Thompson.

The forum for this debate is a basically a two minute rapid fire answers to a wide range of questions.  My first impression?  Great, this forum is perfect for sloganeering.  A lot of baseless statements with no evidence to back it up.  What's wrong with a little political wrestle mania by the way?  I want their views challenged and defended.

The debate starts with an introduction from each candidate.  Vernon Parker talks about his credentials and it seems pretty impressive, former mayor.  He nails President Obama on the debt and our high corporate income tax - now we all know that corporations don't really pay at that rate, right?  The US actually has the lowest effective corporate tax, since our tax code is riddled with loopholes.  I'll source that.

Wendy Rogers up.  She actually ran and lost two years ago for the Arizona Senate.  The Republicans have a lot of former city council-people and of course everyone owns a small business.  Is that a suitable enough stepping stone for US Congress?  I guess I'm a sucker for working your way up.  Show us you can represent a city or state legislative district, then go to Washington, but I'm open.

To be honest, I'm leaning toward David Schapira.  He jumps right in on education.  I think we have prioritized education in this country.  Hopefully he'll get specific on education refrom...  of course only in two minute bursts.

Krysten Sinema emphasizes political polarization.  Her focus will be on compromise and working together to get things done.

Cherney's focus will be on how to build up our middle class.  Looking forward to hear his suggestions on how to do it.

I sense a theme.  The Republicans have eyed federal debt as enemy number 1.  Democrats are a bit more squishy - education, the economy, the middle class.  Republicans view is to cut the debt and get government out of the way and the economy will grow.  Don't believe it.

Wendy Rogers on health care.  She rips Obamacare.  She's ex-air force and uses the VA and apparently hates it.   Then she rattles off the typical party line - portability.  She does offer one idea that's worth exploring, to allow small businesses to to pull togther and create effectively a small business health care pool.  Not sure how this is possible without some government intervention, but maybe it's possible?

Martin Sepulveda suggests tort reform as a way to keep costs down... The point here is that doctors perform unnecessary tests as protection against law suits.  I just think its human nature, when human life is at stake, to perform an extra test to be sure, especially if insurance is paying for it anyway.  Tort reform is doubtful to have much of an impact on cost.

Schapira is a cancer survivor.  Wow, I had no idea.  This is pretty poignant.  There is no free market answer to a cancer survivor.  Absolutely not, way too risky for a private company to take on someone like that.   He slipped in a nice abortion jab at the Republicans - he totally agrees government should get out of health care in some cases :-).   I am an anomoly, by the way, a pro choice democrat, so yes I want government involvement in all kinds of ways.

Sinema talks again about the importance of cooperation to solve problems and points out the popular pre-existing condition component of Obamacare.  I would love to hear the Republicans say how free market health care addresses this.  Sinema gives a really intelligent answer actually.  I'm impressed.

Chernei talks about the health care burdens on businesses.  I agree, but I think we need to shift away from employer provided health care.  Cherney talks about a lot of problems around health care, no solutions.  But how can you realistically attempt to do so in two minutes.

Travis Grantham thinks we can just get government out of the way, and the markets will solve our problems.  I don't believe it.  He compares car insurance to health insurance.  Well, if someone is willing to pay anything for the right to drive, then yeah I can see how there is an equivalence.  He touts the Republican idea to allow individuals to deduct health insurance costs.  I support this, but it doesn't help someone who has a chronic disease and insurance companies just won't touch them.  It's hard to get a tax break on something you are priced out of altogether.

Jeff Thompson is up.  Obamacare is being thrown out like it's a curse word.  He blames tort reform completely for rising health care costs.  Research says otherwise.  I'll find the source.

Vernon Parker is on the "I hate Obamacare" bandwagon.  It costs too much, we can't afford it.  Fair enough, I guess.  His wife has had breast cancer and has first-hand experience with expensive health insurance.  This forced him to pay for tests out of pocket and this is where he learned how doctors ordered tests that they didn't really need and couldn't afford.  I guess this worked for him since he had the money to pay for cancer treatment out of pocket?  This won't work for the majority of Americans.

Martin Sepulveda's answer to our high spending - cut every program and make government more efficient!  I don't doubt it.  A more efficient government is a good thing, but I'm not sure this is a silver bullet.  Government does what it does, I'm not sure you can just will it to do what it does with less money.  If you want to cut government cost, you got to have government do less.  Tell us where exactly you want it to do less.  Otherwise, this answer is  not credible.

Schapira's common sense statement that our economy is the primary reason for are big debt.  Not completely true, but largely so.

Sinema chimes in with a very balanced, middle way answer.  Tax reform and tax increases (let Bush tax cuts expire) balanced with some spending cuts, particularly in the defense industry.

Cherney talks about his time working on the Clinton's administration and takes credit for instituting a balanced budget.  What he doesn't say is that during the 1990's, the baby boomers were at their earning peak, not to mention we were undergoing a dot com boom.  Bush's tax cuts without associative spending cuts were a bad idea especially as we followed them with two wars.  But our long term debt problems caused largely by our aging demographic were present during Clinton times too.  Baby boomers are now retiring, producing less, consuming more. This was foreseeable.

Grantham brings up the cap and balance idea.  Cap spending at some low level and balance to that level.  Tell me how Grantham, which programs are you cutting to do that?

Jeff Thompson is ranting.  This will be a common theme I fear.  Blame Obama for every problem.

Vernon Parker blames our high corporate rates for driving businesses out of America.  I'm all for cutting the rate if you close the loopholes.  He forgets to mention the second half of that equation.

Wendy Rogers brings up the Ryan plan and medicare reform.  Yes.  Republicans, defend this. Let's see how far this gets you.  You do know the Ryan plan is a risky overhaul to medicare.  She also brings up the estate tax becasue you know rich parents children should be able to get their parent's wealth tax free.  Keep the wealth in the family, its the American way.

 Still a ways to go, I'll provide more in another post.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

US Congressional District 9 Candidates Debate

  Get Microsoft Silverlight

Including the CD9 Congressional race debate.  There are a lot of people running.

The Democrats have three:
  • Krysten Sinema, whose been in the state legislature since 2002.
  • David Schapira, who is the current Democratic leader in the Arizona State Senate and represents my state legislative district currently.
  • Andrei Cherny, who lost his bid for state treasurer, but has been a White House aide and advisor to both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.
The Republicans have seven:
  • Lisa Browsky, a member of the Scottsdale City Council
  • Travis Grantham, small businessman and Arizona Air National Guard captain.
  • Jeff Thompson, small businessman
  • Vernon Parker, former mayor and member of Paradise Valley Town Council.
  • Wendy Rogers, retired Air Force pilot and businesswoman
  • Leah Campos Schandlbauer, a former operations officer for the CIA
  • Martin Sepulveda, a former member of the Chandler City Council
 It's a long debate and I haven't listened to the whole thing, but a couple of high level points.  I don't see a lot of ideological differences between individual members running within the Republican party, nor between individuals running within the Democratic party.  There are obvious differences between the two parties.  Since I need to first decide which Democrat to vote for in the primary, this debate wasn't extremely helpful in this regard.

One thing I noticed is the Republicans seem, on average, a lot angrier.  I plan on taking in the debate in segments, and perhaps have a few follow up blogs on it. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Canvassing for the Democrats While Trying to Maintain Objectivity

Going into some extended time off from work last April I was interested in possibly spending some of that time contributing to local politics in some way.   I'm always a little scared to do this because I really want to stay objective.  I want good policy, good laws, good people.  The party is secondary.  In fact even though I am currently a registered Democrat, I really understand what drives the conservative movement - its suspicion of top-down, big government solutions to problems, and its preference to allow local institutions and individuals to find their own solutions.  I get the importance of family values and respect for the individual and the effectiveness of free markets.  I'm a Democrat because despite these sympathies, I think we are facing problems today that are simply too big to leave government out of it, and I think the Republican party has veered too far to the right, but I certainly understand and share many of their core values.

Joining a specific political party, I worry that that I may end up just voting for clothes.  That's no way to hold our government accountable.  I wanted to be a much smarter voter.  Rather than just vote for party, I want to really push my elected officials to defend their positions and their record.  But yet, I still wanted to get involved.

So, talking to some volunteers at the Mark Mitchell campaign, I was convinced to devote considerable time to that campaign.  Here's why.  What campaigning and canvassing is typically about is to increase voter turnout among those already registered to vote in your party.  Increased voter participation is a good thing and I wanted to be a part of informing voters of important local elections.  So, that's basically what I'm doing.  I want to let people know that we have important mayor races, city council races, state legislative races going on right now.  What they do affect our lives.

This is why, I reserve the right to go out there and knock on doors letting people know what Mark Mitchell stands for and why someone should vote for him, while at the same time reserving my right to vote against him if I decide.   In this case, I didn't end up doing that, and I understand there is a significant risk in doing what I'm trying to do.  I'm not putting myself on a level and objective playing field.  It's just hard to vote against your team once you've chosen  to belong to one.

Of course, I'll only take this so far.  I'll refuse to canvass for someone I really don't like.  But this year, at least in my voting districts and regions, the Democratic candidates look to be pretty strong.  They are worth my time and energy.  Yet, my vote is far from being decided on most of these races (my vote for Maricopa country sheriff has long ago been decided).

To that end, I purposely wait until election day to vote.  I want as much information as possible and I want as much time to gather that information as possible.  As a blogger, I'll try to pass on what I learn to you as best as I can as an objective observer.  My hope is that in most races, both candidates are qualified and smart and good.  I'll try to point this out as much as I am able.

My goal for 2012 is to really get to know these candidates running in these local elections.  We'll get more information than we can hope to absorb about Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.  Four years ago, I spent a lot of energy on this blog on the Obama/McCain race.  This time I'm going local.  Instead, I'll focus my energy on Juan MendezEd Ablser, and Andrew Sherwood and all of the rest.

It should be a lot of fun, can't wait.