Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Playing Politics With Disaster Relief

Politico Arena Topic: Should disaster aid be conditional?

It is an accepted norm that the Federal Government aid state and local government when a major calamity occurs as those incidents overwhelm their capacity to respond in the short term and recover in the long term. That is the purpose of the Disaster Relief Fund and the intent of the Stafford Acts. There are years such as 2011, the most devastating tornado season in the U.S. in a lifetime, when the number and costs of disasters depletes that fund.

It is outrageous that members of the United States Congress are playing politics with communities and people directly affected by these devastating events. As was the case with the debt ceiling, many Republicans are willing to hold communities hostage in an effort to shrink the size of government. Where were these budget-balancing Republicans when a Republican president and Republican-led Congress, blessed with a balanced-budget after the Clinton years, passed Medicare Part D without paying for it? What about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that were similarly not paid for? How about the massive tax cut that benefited mainly the wealthy that has added to the country’s debt? I’ll tell you where they were: on the floor of the Congress voting for these massive government programs without any offsetting spending cuts.

Real citizens and communities are hurting from Hurricane Irene as people in Joplin, Missouri continue to wait for Federal assistance to help recover from one the deadliest and costliest tornados in American history. Americans expect the Federal Government to act in these situations and if the GOP continues to be an obstacle, there will be electoral consequences down the road.

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Friday, August 26, 2011

Throwing Kisses While The Ship Sets Sail

Politico Arena Topic: Has Sarah Palin been eclipsed?

The ship has left the port and is sailing out to sea. Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and others boarded awhile ago. Rick Perry, realizing the ship was leaving, finally jumped from shore and climbed aboard. Sarah Palin, though, is still waving and throwing kisses to the crowd even while the TV crews keep reminding her the ship is moving towards the horizon.

We all know that she claims to live by her own rules, but there are some rules you can’t invent—real tangible ballot deadlines and intangible fundraising windows. A serious candidate for the presidency pays attention to such things. And frankly, even if she were to somehow get on that ship, there may be nowhere for her to stand at this point.

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Monday, August 22, 2011

My Nirvana: Green Bay Packers at the White House

Two of my favorite things in life: the Green Bay Packers and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. On August 12, 2011, those two personal loves met as President Barack Obama invited the Packers to come their NFL Championship. And here is the video from that momentous occasion. I just wish I could have been there in person...

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Time to Convene the Do Nothing Congress

Having survived a torturous process and passed legislation that raises America's debt ceiling, Congress has decided to go on vacation. One problem: the debt ceiling nightmare pushed nearly all other important work to the back burner and Congress recessed before accomplishing some important matters such as continue funding the Federal Aviation Administration. So because of yet another political stalemate, Congress went home and their negligence has left 74,000 FAA workers out of work--not exactly a stimulus to the sagging economy.

There is one thing that one person could attempt to do about all this: President Obama has the constitutional authority to order Congress back to town to deal with this issue. According to Article II, Section III, of the U.S. Constitution, the President "may, on extraordinary Occasions, convene both Houses." The partial shutdown of the FAA would certainly qualify as an "extraordinary occasion" which potentially puts public safety and the health of the economy at risk.

Convening Congress via the extraordinary occasions clause has not been done since 1948 when Harry Truman ordered the do-nothing 80th Congress back to Washington to deal with the issues of the day--a tactic many credit with allowing Truman to embarrass Congress and win a close reelection. Truman had it right and today's 112th Congress can similarly be described as do-nothing. It is time for this President to act boldly, especially when many Americans, his base most of all, view this President as too willing to capitulate to his political enemies. This President should bring Congress back to town and keep them there until they carry out their responsibility and fund the FAA.

Obama's Reelection Chances...Fifteen Months Out

Politico Arena Topic: Will President Obama Lose the 2012 Election?

President Ronald Reagan was at 43 percent in the Gallup Poll at the beginning of August 1983 (the exact point in his presidency that Barack Obama is at now). Fifteen months later he won a landslide victory for reelection. Lesson: if twenty four hours is a lifetime in politics, fifteen months is an eon.

Although things look bad for President Obama’s reelection at this moment in time, fortunately for him the election is not next week. It is impossible to predict what will happen over a year from now or to predict whether or not President Obama will be reelected. One thing that political scientists are sure of, however: if the economy improves substantially and unemployment falls, this will help the president immensely. If the economy continues to stagnate or worsen, President Obama is in huge trouble.

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