Wednesday, September 9, 2009

C-SPAN: Video: President Obama's Address to Congress on Health Care Reform

This post was originally posted at FRS FreeStates on Blogger

When the health care reform debate started earlier this year, President Obama made the political calculation that he would delegate the health care reform issue to the unpopular Democratic Congress and let the congressional Democratic Leadership figure out and take the heat for whatever problems and issues could arise, such as the Congressional Budget Office scoring the Senate health care bill at over $1 trillion of borrowed money, not a single dime of it paid for, or the fact that the House Democratic Caucus would be divided.

The House Democratic health care bill was scored by CBO at $900 billion, with a $500 billion tax increase in a struggling economy that's just starting to come out of the Great Recession.  The fiscally conservative House Blue Dog Caucus doesn't like tax increases in a struggling economy and they represent 52 members, or one-fifth of the House Democratic Caucus, enough by themselves to kill any health care bill or any other bill on their own along with the 176-member House Republican Caucus.

One problem with delegating the health care reform issue to the Democratic Leadership is that they delegated the issue to the House Progressive/Democratic Socialist Caucus (as I call them), which represents another 50 members of the House Democratic Caucus, which wrote a socialist style health care reform bill that included the $500 billion tax hike as well as another big tax hike on employers who don't provide health insurance to their employees.

Another problem with the Democratic Socialists' bill is that only a small minority on this far-left fringe of the American political spectrum supports their bill and a large portion of the American public is terrified of the Democratic Socialists' bill, which has scared a lot of Americans away from health care reform.  If health care reform goes down in 2009, it will be because of this one fatal mistake that President Obama made in early 2009. 

So going into tonight's speech to Congress and the American people, President Obama had five tasks, as I see it: 

(1) Lay down his vision to Congress and Americans of health care reform in a clear and concise way. 

(2) Bring back those independent voters who voted for him in 2008 who have been scared away from health care reform because of the House Democratic Socialists' bill as well as the Republican opposition and congressional minority and their allies.

(3) Reach out to the House Blue Dog Caucus as well as the Senate centrist Democrats by explaining he wouldn't sign a Health Care reform bill that isn't paid for and explaining his vision of what a public health insurance option looks like, and that it wouldn't have any unfair advantages over private health insurers. 

(4) Reach out to Democratic Socialists in the House by making it clear he supports a public option. 

(5) Reach out to senior voters by making clear to them that he wouldn't sign any health care reform bill that hurts Medicare. 

I believe President Obama accomplished all five of these tasks tonight.  I thought it was a great speech and hopefully it will move the ball forward towards real Health Care reform in 2009.  Now it's time to get it done.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

VOA News: Video: President Obama Nominates Judge Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court

This post was originally posted at FRS FreeStates on Blogger

Justice David Souter was considered by then President George H.W. Bush to be the next conservative Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. Ha!  He was the best mistake that President Bush could have made, in my opinion as a liberal, because he was the opposite of what President Bush had in mind when he appointed him to the bench.  President Bush still gets flack from right-wingers today about the Souter nomination, about everything from civil rights, labor rights, environmental protection, to choice, civil liberties, keeping our streets safe, to protecting speech, to keeping America a republic rather then a theocracy, or to defending the U.S. Constitution.  Justice Souter was there defending the values that some Americans take for granted.

So how should President Obama fill the seat that Justice Souter will leave behind. For one, he should find someone who has values similar to those of Justice Souter, believing in the U.S. Constitution and America and defending it every day and every minute he/she is on the Supreme Court. I realize that African-Americans have had two appointments, Jewish-Americans have had two appointments, Italian-Americans have had two appointments, women have had two appointments, and now that Latino Americans represent 12.5% of the American population, you can make the case that their time has come as well. But it would be an insult to Latino Americans as well as America as a whole to nominate someone to the Supreme Court who is not qualified regardless of their racial or ethnic background. The idea is to nominate the best person for the job and someone who represents your values the best.  Then, if that person is Latino, great, but that should not be the primary standard for nomination. 

So what am I getting at? Well, a couple of things. I'm not a lawyer (in case you missed the memo), but the job of any Justice is to interpret laws, not write them, and not to legislate from the bench.  Legislating is the job of elected legislators (or lobbyists).  Justices are supposed to judge the constitutionality of laws and what they mean, not how they should have been written.  Democrats control the White House and Senate, so they get to decide who is appointed to the bench and who gets confirmed. Liberals believe, and I'm one of them, that it's time for an appointment that we like, not a centrist, especially since President W. Bush got exactly who he wanted on the Supreme Court in John Roberts and Samuel Alito. But I want a real liberal, not a social democrat but someone who understands the real world and the U.S. Constitution and doesn't try to make it up as he goes along. 

I'm not a huge fan of Judge Sonia Sotomayor and probably would not have appointed her, but judging from her professional background, she appears to have liberal tendencies, which is what you want if you are a Democrat appointing someone to the Supreme Court, but she also has a reputation as a tough prosecutor, which tells me she's not too far to the left.  Her ruling in the Connecticut firefighters case, and especially her short ruling to explain her decision, is troubling to me as a liberal who believes in equal rights for all, not just for some. But I'm not going to use one case to bring her down, especially when her legal record looks very good on the whole, which is why I believe she should and will be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

JT Video: NBC News: President Barack Obama's First 100 Days

This post was originally posted at FRS FreeStates on Blogger

It's been just 100 days of the Barack Obama Administration (note the title of this blog), but already there seems to be a pattern to how President Obama will govern. The first few weeks seemed shaky, with some executive appointments that had to be pulled back, such as former Senate Leader Tom Daschle to be Secretary of HHS.  Daschle didn't report a car service that he used while in the Senate on his taxes, which was required. The President appointed New York Federal Reserve President Tim Geithner to be Secretary of Treasury, but he failed to report some of his income to the IRS when he worked at the World Bank. If you, I, Joe and Jane Jones, etc. don't pay their taxes, we go to jail or pay a steep fine or both, but Tim Geithner, because of who he is, gets away with it.  Sounds like a double standard to me. I don't think the White House has a strong enough vetting process.

I do think that once Barack Obama and Joe Biden were sworn in as President and Vice President of the United States, they got to work right away and showed us they understood the issues they faced, whether it was Afghanistan and Iraq by appointing General David Petraeus to be Central Commander and acknowledging that they didn't have enough troops there, or veteran diplomat Richard Holbrooke to be an envoy to Central Asia.

They understood the economy and got to work quickly with Congress to write a badly needed Recovery Act for the sluggish economy.  However, I disagree with much of what was in the Recovery Act, since I think it spends too much on things that have as little to do with stimulating the economy as classical music has to do with heavy metal; for example, health IT as well as additional money for the NEA didn't do enough to stimulate the economy.  Actions that would actually stimulate the economy are infrastructure projects, small business tax relief, and capital gains tax relief so people could start rebuilding their retirement accounts. What was in the Recovery Act was either wasteful, like the NEA spending, or not enough, like the Make Work Pay Tax Credit, $500 for an individual that should've been twice as much. 

Then Senator Obama, when he was running for President in 2008, ran on the theme "change that we can believe in." Part of that idea was changing how the Federal Government operated. We were going to stop borrowing and spending and mortgaging our children's future, to get lobbyists out of government, and to end congressional earmarks as we knew them.  Even though Barack Obama has been President for only 100 days, he's managed to break all three of those promises. The gigantic Omnibus Spending Bill of some $400 billion back in February had over 1,000 earmarks in it, and the Wall Street, Detroit, and homeowners' bailouts borrowed over $1 trillion.  In President Obama's first 100 days, he signed an executive order banning lobbyists from serving in the Federal Government. Within a couple of days of signing that order, he had already made a couple of exceptions. 

As I said, President Obama has a strong grasp of the issues and knows what his administration is facing and has the potential to be a great president. But for "change that we can believe in" to be anything more then a cute campaign slogan, he's going to have to start making positive changes or that campaign slogan will be nothing more than that. Right now I would give President Obama a B-, with a lot of potential to improve.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

C-SPAN: Video: President Obama's First Speech to Congress

This post was originally posted at FRS FreeStates on Blogger

When I look at America today I still see a country that I love, the greatest country in the World. There is no other country where I would rather live, even though my family, like most other American families, are originally from elsewhere. But I also see a country that is facing the most difficult challenges in a generation, or since the 1930s and its Great Depression.

On the bright side, I also see a country that has the most opportunities to advance in its great history even though America today has the worst economy at since the late 1970s or early 1980's, if not since the Great Depression.  At the same time it has an opportunity to once again rebuild its economy and make it the strongest economy in world history by putting Americans back to work rebuilding its physical infrastructure and giving overtaxed Americans and businesses tax relief.  The theory behind this is that if we put people to work and let them keep more of their money, then they will spend more, creating more jobs by growing the private sector economy.

America also faces the worst housing crisis since the 1930s.  People now owe more on their houses than their houses are worth, but we have an opportunity to fix the problem by helping people refinance so they can afford to pay off their mortgages. America can't fix its economic crisis without fixing its housing crisis, which is probably its biggest current economic problem.

America also faces an over $1 trillion budget deficit, which represents about 10 percent of our economy, and a $13 trillion national debt, which represents 90 percent of our economy.  Long term, this could put a drag on our economy if we don't get it under control, because the Federal Government will be competing with the private sector for limited funds to pay for the interest on the debt.  But at the same time, we have an opportunity to pay down our debt by ending the supply side borrow and spend fiscal policy of the Bush Administration and paying for things again with PAYGO, which means pay as you go and come up with the funds for any new spending. 

America also has issues with its health care system, which needs reforming, because long term it will be unaffordable if we don't get it under control. Roughly 50 million Americans do not have health insurance and most of them cannot afford health insurance. We also face an obesity problem, because one-half of all Americans are obese, as well as a diabetes problem, which is the fastest growing disease in America. And obesity leads to diabetes.  However, we have an opportunity to provide health insurance to every person in the country by fixing what doesn't work in health care and building on what does. 

America also faces a banking and business issue, where American businesses and banks are now failing because of the bad economy and mismanagement. But we have an opportunity to fix these problems by giving businesses, such as the auto industry, short-term loans and forcing them to restructure so they become competitive in the 21st century.  This would go a long way toward fixing our economy and putting Americans back to work. 

So there are plenty of issues facing America right now and plenty of work to do. And President Obama can look at his presidency in the early years as either the worst time to be President or an opportunity to shine and win reelection by turning America around and leading us back to prosperity.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Adam Goss: Video: The United States Constitution

This post was originally posted at FRS FreeStates on Blogger

 I  love  America  because  it  is  one  of  the  few countries in  the  world, if  not  the  only country,  where  the  people  and not  the  government  control  what  happens  in  their  lives.  I  believe  in  freedom and  responsibility.   America  is  the  original, oldest, and, perhaps, only true  constitutional  liberal  democracy  in  the  world.

The  backbone  of  the  American  form  of  government  is  the  United  States  Constitution.  It establishes the rule  of  law and checks and balances among the branches of government and prescribes strict limits on the role of government in society.  America's form  of  government is the best in  the  world because it derives its power  from  the  people.  This sets  America apart from authoritarian  governments.  

A core tenet of America's liberal government is constitutional limitation of government authority.
The  idea that government  can't  do  everything is a  main  difference  between  liberal  democrats  and social democrats.  Another is the concept that freedom is coupled with responsibility, that  people  have  the  right  to  live  their  lives  as  they  see  fit as  long  as  they're  not injuring others  but  they're  responsible  for decision's  that they  make.

Another  liberal  value  is  equal  opportunity.  People  in  America have  the  right  to  live  up  to  their  potential and  this cannot  be denied  because  of  their  race, ethnicity,  gender,  religion,  sexuality,  national  origin,  or  any  other personal characteristic.

Another  liberal  value  is that one  of  the  roles  of government  is  to  empower  people  who  are  facing  hard  times  to  help  themselves rather then relying  on  the  private  market or  subsidizing  them  forever.  Liberals  believe  the  role  of  government  is  to  protect,  defend,  represent,  serve,  set  the rules,  empower  people  in  need  and  be  fiscally  responsible.  

When  I  think  about  how  I  came  to  think as I  do, about how my  politics developed,  I  look  back  on  great  American  politicians  of  the  past, people  such  as Thomas Jefferson  the  father  of  the  Bill  of  Rights,  the Democratic  Party and  liberalism and a person whom both liberals and  conservatives  respect, President  Harry Truman.  He  started  the  ball rolling  on civil rights  from  the  presidential  level  by  desegregating  the  American military.  He got  the  ball  rolling  on  universal  health  care, something  the  Democratic Party has  been  pushing  for  60  years.  Medicare  was  originally  a  Truman  idea.

Truman  also  laid  the  ground  work  to  fight  the  cold  war  with  the  creation  of  NATO,  CIA and  the  Defense  Department.  John  Kennedy showed us that America  is  great.  Lyndon  Johnson  made  full citizenship for  African- Americans the  law  with  the Voting  Rights  Act and the  Civil  Rights Bill.  He had a  passion  in  his  gut  to  fight  for  people  who  were  down  because  he knew from  personal experience  what  it  was  like  to  be  poor.

He  also  believed  that  people who were  down  should  be  given  a  hand  up  rather  then  a  hand  to the  face.  Bill  Clinton showed that  there  was  nothing  wrong  with  America  that couldn't  be  fixed with what  is  right  with  America.  He  redefined liberalism  for  America.

When Clinton  and  Gore  were  elected  in  November, 1992,  I changed from being a casual follower of politics to  being  hooked  on  politics.  They  showed  America  that  it  was still  great. Even though it  was  facing  major  problems, they  had  a  vision  of  how  to  fix  them.
This  is  an  overview  of  my  politics,  the  backbone of my  approach to issues  that America  faces.  You  can  look  at  issues  with an  open  mind but  if you  don't  have core beliefs,  your  are  looking  at  issues in  the  dark  and  hoping  for  the  best. 

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Greatest Audio Books: Video: The Bill of Rights

This post was originally posted at FRS FreeStates on Blogger

To everybody out in blogland, I want to use this blog as a way to express my views in public on the key issues of the day, anything from foreign policy, to education, to fiscal policy, to crime and punishment. I don't consider myself an expert on any of these issues and I'm not asking anybody who reads my blog to take my word as gold.  I want the people who read FRS FreeStates to decide for themselves. All I can do with FRS FreeStates is to look at the issues of the day as closely as possible and write about them as informatively as possible and then let the readers decide for themselves how informative I am.

 As I said in my extended profile, I'm a confessed political junky and a dedicated viewer of C-Span. (To all of you non-political junkies, C-Span is a 24-hour news network dedicated to current affairs, and it covers both chambers of Congress gavel to gavel.)  I watch and read a lot of news, which is what a political junky needs to do to keep up with what goes on in the world, including PBS and a lot of current affairs documentaries. So I'm pretty informed about what goes on and I think about these issues a lot. So what better and easier way is there to express yourself on what you think on these issues than a blog.

To all you non-political junkies out there in blogland, I'm never afraid to crack a joke.  I could crack a joke at a funeral. I'm not proud of that and most likely I wouldn't crack the joke out loud and a lot of times I walk around with a smirk on my face and people will ask me what is so funny and I'll tell them that I can't tell them because the joke in my head is not appropriate. You know, George W.  Bush was President of the United States for 8 years and spent 2 years running for president and in those 10 years the only thing we developed in common is that we both have a wear a smirk.

In my blog I'll be writing about a lot of serious issues, and the non-political junky who looks at my blog (perhaps accidentally) might find it very technical, kind of like reading a dishwasher manual word for word. So I'm going to throw some humor in wherever it might be appropriate. To Conservatives out there, and I mean political Conservatives, not religious Conservatives, or the term I prefer, theocrats, I hope you look at FRS FreeStates and read it carefully and respond to it.  Hopefully we can get an honest and respectful back and forth going.  Even though I'm coming from the left, you might find that we have a few things in common. 

So FRS FreeStates will be a chance for a severe political junky (guess who) to express his thoughts publicly on the issues and hopefully engage in intelligent dialogue with his readers. Intelligent readers are welcome

John F. Kennedy Liberal Democrat

John F. Kennedy Liberal Democrat
Source: U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960