Liberal Democrat

Liberal Democrat
Individual Freedom For Everyone

Sunday, September 26, 2010

NDTV: Video: Swedish Elections, Swedish Socialists About to Lose: A Lesson For Social Democrats Worldwide




Sweden is generally thought of as a Nordic country with beautiful scenery, beautiful women, good food, and a peace loving and congenial society. Socialists, or Democratic Socialists, see Sweden as a utopian paradise, an ideal world, a very generous welfare state financed by high taxes paid by people who work for a living, where people who don't work can have a generous standard of living, nonetheless

Democratic Socialists probably see Sweden as the best representation of their view of collectivism, a collaborative arrangement of society in which  no individual makes an excessive amount of money, even if their skills and productivity suggest that they should.  In this scheme, people who do make a lot more money than others will pay high taxes to support those who haven't made so much money. This doesn't  incentivize people to be financially successful.  It discourages productivity.

So, when the Center-Right forces in Sweden (much different from the Center-Right in America or Canada) won the elections there in September, that kind of blew me away.  If a Democratic Socialist party can't win in a country where Democratic Socialism is very popular, probably more popular than anywhere else in Europe, and where faith in the state is high, where can they win? 

European nations tend to go back and forth between the Center-Right and Center-Left with neither political faction ever achieving a lasting majority. But in Sweden, the Democratic Socialists, who would be considered far-left in the U.S., have been in power for a long time. The Swedish elections should serve as a message for Democratic Socialists worldwide that, perhaps, their overwhelming faith in the state should be reexamined. I think that what happened in Sweden in September is similar to what in happened in America in 1968, 72, 84 and 88. 

In that era, the Democratic Party, of which I'm proud to be a member, lost badly in each presidential election (except 1968), in large part, because they were seen as more of a Social Democratic party than a Liberal Democratic party, which it had traditionally been. It  fought for freedom and equality and for giving people who are down a hand up, not a hand out.  But instead we were seen as a "tax and spend" Social Democratic Party committed to a European style welfare state.  That "tax and spend" stereotype cost Democrats for twenty years.

In the election of 1992, Bill Clinton and Al Gore introduced the New Democrat concept, a more pragmatic view of politics and economics, and were able to beat back this stereotype.  They convinced the American electorate that the Democratic Party was not a Social Democratic party, committed to a welfare state, supported by high taxes on the rich and business with visions of a "Utopian Paradise". The Swedish elections should serve as a lesson for Democratic Socialists everywhere that they can lose, in even Sweden.  If they can lose there, they can lose anywhere .  It's time for them to reexamine their faith in the State as the primary provider of income, goods, and services. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

James Miller Center: Video: The Legacy of President Lyndon B. Johnson




Lyndon Johnson's Presidency is remembered for the Vietnam War and the miss-handling of it but that's only part of the story of a five year Presidency. When I think of Lyndon Johnson, I think of not only the best Senate Majority Leader America has ever seen for passing legislation but, also, someone who brought those skills to the White House and became the greatest legislative President America has ever seen. Whether you agree with all of the legislation that President Johnson got passed or none of it or are somewhere in between, you have to give him credit and acknowledge his ability to get legislation passed through Congress.

I also think about what would not have happened had Lyndon Johnson not become President. How long would African-Americans have had to wait for the full citizenship that the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act gave them?  Without LBJ, who secured crucial help from then Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen and some progressive Republican Senators, those bills could not have passed. 

How did LBJ get the Civil and Voting Rights Acts through Congress?  He did it by scaring the hell out of Representatives and Senators, especially Southern Democrats, by telling them that if they didn't allow votes on the bills he wouldn't support their pork projects in the appropriations bills. If you really want to scare a member of Congress, find a way to prevent their delivering pork to their district or state.  Pork to members is like cocaine to drug addicts.  They don't think they can survive without it. 

In evaluating the presidency of LBJ. a very important consideration is how long would America have to wait for the Civil and Voting Rights Acts to be passed.  I think that President Nixon would have signed those bills into law but he would not of put much effort into getting them through Congress.  The same with President Ford.  I think that President Carter would have of tried to get them through Congress but he didn't have the respect from Congress that President Johnson did. I think that President Reagan might have been able to get them passed but he and the Republican Senate from 1981-87 would have wanted stripped down and compromised versions of the Acts.

We probably would have waited until President George H.W. Bush or President Clinton, a generation after LBJ, before those bills become Law. Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton didn't have the respect from Congress that LBJ  had because they had not served in Congress.  Both Congressional parties knew very well that LBJ would do whatever it would take to pass legislation that he thought was in the best interest of the country.  Carter and Clinton had more of a "Get what you can now" approach to negotiating with Congress. 

When I think of  a Progressive in political (not pop culture) terms, I think of someone who wants the country as a whole to advance in a positive way.  I think of Lyndon Johnson.  He was a Progressive.  He never saw a problem that he thought could not be solved, whether it was poverty, health care civil rights or whatever.  A lot of times, as in civil rights and Medicare, it worked and sometimes it didn't, as in Vietnam, but he was always working to bring positive change to America. 

So when you look at Lyndon Johnson's Presidency, there is the stain of the Vietnam War but  remember to look at the whole story.


Monday, May 31, 2010

J.M. Studios: Memorial Day Tribute- Remembering the Great Americans Who Fight For Our Freedom


On this beautiful, hot and sunny Memorial Day, the official kickoff of summer in the nation’s capital, as we go to our cookouts, beaches, pool parties, pub crawls, and whatever else, lets take a moment to remember why this is all possible. Before we begin our celebrations, let’s remember our brave American warriors stationed in Europe, Afghanistan, Iraq, Japan, Korea and everywhere else around the World who won’t get to spend this time with their spouses, kids, parents, nephews, nieces, and friends because they’re serving our country so that their fellow Americans can. As we’re celebrating, lets take some time to honor them and their families, who will spend this Memorial Day without each other.

Let’s also remember our brave fallen warriors from Desert Storm, Desert Shield, Afghanistan, the Civil War, World Wars I, and II, Korea, Vietnam, and all the other wars they’ve fought to keep America safe so that we can celebrate Memorial Day today. Let’s also remember the sacrifices of our brave warriors who were wounded and who will never fully recover from their injuries. Let’s not feel that it’s too big of a sacrifice for us to make sure that they receive the health care that they will need for the rest of their lives because of what they sacrificed for America. So as we go to our cookouts, beaches, pool parties, pub crawls and whatever, else lets take time out to remember who has kept it all possible.

America is a great country because of all of our values, freedoms and choices that we have the freedom to m make when it comes to our own lives. But we didn’t obtain our freedom and greatness by accident. We’ve literally fought for it as a country. Well our warriors have so the rest of us can have the freedom that they’ve fought for. And because of their sacrifices as well as their families sacrifices we have the ability and freedom to go to cookouts, ballgames, the beach, parties, bars and everything else. Even as the families of our brave warriors have to go through the great holiday that is Memorial Day without their sons and daughters, spouses, fathers and mothers and some cases even children. And because of this it is never too late or too much to remember why we have the freedom to celebrate Memorial Day the way we do.






Monday, May 10, 2010

White House: Video: President Obama Nominates Elena Kagan to Supreme Court



When U.S. Justice Paul Stevens announced his retirement from the Supreme Court, I saw it as another opportunity for President Obama and Liberal Democrats, of which I'm one, to appoint another liberal Justice to the Supreme Court who would be there for at least a generation and would fight for the U.S. Constitution and liberal values, which is what I believe we got with Justice Sonia Sotomayor, especially since Democrats also control the Senate with a large nine-seat majority. It took President Bush 5 years to nominate his two Justices to the Supreme Court.

President George W. Bush had a right-wing Republican majority in the Senate, a five-seat majority smaller than Democrats of course, but President Bush was smart enough to appoint hard-core conservatives in John Roberts and Samuel Alito. The two appointees had bipartisan support, so the then Senate Democratic Leadership never really considered blocking Roberts or Alito. The difference for President Obama and other Liberals is that we gained an opportunity to appoint two Justices within the first year of President Obama's presidency with a large Senate majority to go along with the White House.

I think the President did a very good job appointing as his first Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is in her mid-fifties and has pretty much voted the way the President was expecting, being a reliable vote on the four-seat liberal wing of the Court. With the President's second choice, I think he needs to appoint someone who can go toe to toe with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Antonin Scalia, two Justices with whom I rarely if ever agree.

But they are two people whom I consider to have brilliant legal minds and have the right approach to making their legal decisions. I usually don't agree with them, but you can make a credible case for why they believe what they believe and understand why they believe it. Also, it would be useful for the President to appoint a Justice who can persuade other Justices to vote with them, and of course I'm thinking of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the current swing vote on the Supreme Court.

E.J. Dionne said about Elena Kagan that she will be a reliable vote on the Liberal wing of the Supreme Court who can persuade conservative Justice Kennedy to vote with them, not always of course, but enough to make a difference. E.J. Dionne is a Washington progressive columnist and commentator who is also very objective and whose political judgement has my respect. He's a partisan in the good sense, someone who states his views but then backs them up, and he's not a political attack dog who attacks conservative Republicans just to attack them. 

Elena Kagan also just turned 50 years old and could definitely serve 25-30 years on the Supreme Court if she stays healthy. I don't know much about Elena Kagan, other than that she served for then Senator Joe Biden when he was Chairman of the Judiciary Committee. Biden is a liberal Democrat for whom I have a lot of respect.  Elena Kagan also served in the Clinton White House, again more liberal Democrats for whom I have a lot of respect. 

In many ways, despite the bad plate of food (like a typical meal in solitary confinement in prison) that Barack Obama inherited as President, so far in some ways he's lucky, because he has an opportunity to replace two liberals on the Supreme Court with two liberals as well as a Democratic controlled Senate in his first 2 years as President.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

AP: Raw Video: Arizona Governor Signs Arizona Immigration Law



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The Arizona immigration bill is all the evidence needed to conclude that it's time for  comprehensive immigration reform in America. As President Obama has said, failure of Washington to act will lead to misguided legislation meant to deal with the immigration.   Yesterday, a reporter asked Arizona Governor Jan Brewer what an Illegal Immigrant look like.  She replied that she doesn't know.  Under the Arizona immigration bill, law enforcement personnel will be able to use race and skin color as factors in deciding whether someone is an illegal immigrant. 

The Arizona immigration bill provides  no standard for the appearance of an illegal immigrant.   An Arizona law  officer could walk to up to a group speaking a language other than English and assume that they're in America illegally. I hope that Arizona law officers have better judgement then that, but it could happen.


Arizona and the whole American Southwest have a right to be angry about the illegal immigration problem there. They are in a border war  against criminals there who bring  weapons and narcotics across our border.  They're right to be angry at Washington for its failure to deal with the problem.  Congress has been debating immigration reform for 5 years now and has failed to pass  a bill.

The overwhelming number of immigrants to America are law-biding, hard-working people who come looking for a better life for themselves and their families.  They want to become Americans.    The Arizona Immigration bill, with its racial profiling aspect, is a serious impediment to there hopes and dreams.   The good news is that it will never become law because it violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S.  Constitution and will be overturned by the courts.



AP: Raw Video: President Obama: Arizona Immigration Law Miss-Guided: Comprehensive Immigration Reform




So what would I do?  I've said before it's easier to complain about something than to fix it.  I would have a comprehensive approach to fixing the illegal Immigration problem like the Affordable Care Act's reform of our health care system.

Boarder Security- 
Increase the number of Boarder Patrol agents on the Southern border, so we have enough resources to protect that border adequately.  Collect dedicated revenue for Customs and the Border Patrol through a fee charged for  border crossings into America from Mexico, Canada, and other countries. 

Employer Fines- 
Place steep fines on employers who hire illegal immigrants and pay them below minimum wage.  Adjust the amount of the fine for the severity of the violation and the wealth of the company. 

Employment Visa- 
Since America is a country where people are expected to work and produce as part of living here and we don't have the resources to subsidize anybody who's not capable of supporting themselves, I would only admit immigrants who are capable of working and qualified to do a job needed here.   I would withhold their eligibility for unemployment insurance or welfare until they're citizens of the United States. 

Probational Residency- 
Since America is a nation of laws, I'm not for giving the 15M or so illegal immigrants who are in America amnesty for entering our country illegally. That contradicts the Rule of Law but I'm also not for attempting to kick out all of these people because it's simply impractical and inhumane.  I would bring these people out of the dark into the light of America and give them a chance at a normal life under the following conditions:  

They pay a fine based on the length of time they've been in the country illegally.  If they can't pay it at once, installment plans would be available. 


They pay all back taxes to Federal, State and local governments that they might have avoided as illegal immigrants, plus penalties and interest.

They become proficient in the English language so they can better assimilate and improve their employment chances. 


In addition, illegal immigrants should be required to get a Probational Residency ID Card that would have to  be carried on their person like a driver's license and renewed every year.   Renewal of the card would be based on their ability to meet the conditions of Probational Residency. If they meet the conditions, they can stay for at least another year.  If not, they would be subject to immediate deportation.


These conditions would include a requirement to hold a job or have a private sector sponsor who can support then.  After 10 years, if they've met all of the conditions of Probational Residency, they would be granted legal immigrant status and allowed to move towards citizenship.  If they've met all conditions except for reparation of back taxes, interest, penalties, and fines, they could remain in the country while their paying off their financial obligations as long as they're not felons and employed.  They would be subject to annual review until they reach legal immigrant status. 

I think this Comprehensive Approach to solving our illegal immigration problem is more practical and humane than attempting airtight closure of the borders and deportation of15M illegal immigrants. 



Monday, April 19, 2010

Reason: Video: Ted Balaker Interviewing Neill Franklin: Five Ways The Drug War Hurts Kids




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If there is one war in that America needs to end it's the "War on Drugs". The War on Drugs is almost completely fought from the law enforcement side.  Dealers and users are  both basically seen as criminals who deserve to be locked up.  Narcotics dealers and importers are clearly criminals who deserve to be locked up in maximum security prisons serving long sentences because they make their money selling dope to addicts who use it and, in a lot cases, destroy they're lives or die as a result.  But, a lot of times, their "customers" are not criminals and shouldn't be treated as such.  Narcotics customers are addicts and should be treated as patients.

While I'm for putting narcotics dealers away in prison, I am for sending narcotics users to drug treatment centers.  They could be released when their doctors and judges determine that they're rehabilitated and don't need or want narcotics anymore. They would get treatment, counseling and work while they're at these centers.  They wouldn't be free people who could leave at anytime.  Narcotics addicts sentenced to the treatment centers could be required to pay for their time there.  There could be vouchers or some other arrangement for those who could not afford the treatment. 

Now, under the War on Drugs, when drug users are caught and convicted of possession of drugs with intent to use, they are sent to prison.  They serve their sentences and get out still addicted to narcotics.  They may even have used narcotics in prison and picked up a few  more criminal skills.  They go back to the street as narcotics users.  If, instead, we collapsed the narcotics market by getting the customers off of them, dealers would have fewer customers and make less money. After release from the drug treatment center rehabilitated users could be required to provide up to a year of community service. They could be spokesmen for the rehab program telling their community about the dangers of narcotics use and their experiences with it. 

This makes financial sense.  One reason the U.S. prison system is over crowded is because a lot of its Inmates  are users who are there for narcotics related crimes.   This program could save a lot of valuable prison space for violent felons who deserve to be there.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The White House: Video: President Obama Signs Health Car Law




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What do I think of the Affordable Health Care Act?  Well to be brief, and I guess this is simplistic, I would say that it is the best health care reform bill that could've been passed in this Congress. As a liberal, I believe in private enterprise and capitalism and open competition, as well as freedom of choice.  Thats what the public option would've brought, another option not a mandate like a single payer system.  Americans could choose  where to get they're health insurance among providers who would compete fairly in the private market. 

It's not a Medicare system for all, which would force everyone in the country to purchase Medicare whether they wanted it or not.  It offers a tax credit for employers and people who aren't eligible for Medicare and Medicaid that goes a long way toward seeing that these people are able to afford health insurance.  The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects that the Health Care Act will provide health insurance to an additional 30M Americans who currently don't have it.

Other than the tax credit to purchase health insurance, the best part of the Health Care Act, along with the fact that its totally paid for according to CBO and won't add a penny to our national debt, is that it has a Patients Bill of Rights.  This was debated in Congress ten years ago.  New federal regulations  prevent health insurers from abusing their customers and sitting on their profits instead of providing health insurance, which is their primary purpose.

No longer will health insurers be able to dump patients who have pre-existing conditions or just because they are sick and need their health insurance. No more caps on the amount of health insurance claims over a lifetime. Health insurers are required to spend a certain percentage of their profits on patient care.  They'll actually have to provide health insurance for  patients instead of sitting on their profits. 

I'm a Liberal and I believe in freedom.   Part of freedom is economic freedom, the ability of people to set their own course in life.  People need to be able to make money to do that.  Economic freedom provides freedom of choice so that people can decide for themselves where to get the services they need in their lives.  A big part of that, of course. is health insurance, the ability to pay for your own health care.

The Health Care Act supports this by stripping away the most common abuses committed by the private health insurers.   It improves the private health insurance market so that people of modest means, but who aren't poor, will now have the resources to decide for themselves where to get their health insurance, just like upper middle class and upper class people can.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

White House: The 2010 State of the Union Address: Grading the First Year of the Obama Presidency








I realize that we're past the 365-day mark of the Barack Obama presidency and we're probably around the 400-day mark but I want to lay out in this blog how I believe the first year of the Obama Presidency has gone so far.

As we all know, when Barack Obama became President in January 2009, he inherited several awful problems that he had to deal with right away. On the domestic side, he inherited a deep recession of  -7% economic growth, where we were losing 700,000 jobs per month, roughly the population of Columbus, Ohio, one of the largest cities in America, which now has a 10% unemployment rate. He inherited a budget deficit of over $1 trillion and a national debt of over $10 trillion.  So that's what was on the plate for Barack Obama and his Administration when he became President, facing two strikes with not a lot of room to make mistakes.  To grow on the job he had to make a lot of quick decisions with Congress right off the bat without much room for error. 

It's easy to blame the other guy when you are President and in a tough situation, but that's not leadership.  Part of leadership is facing the problem and solving it the best way possible.  Putting the country back on a path of prosperity for better or worse is now the Barack Obama Administration's problem.  His foreign, domestic, and fiscal problems come with being a leader responsible for his actions.

They did pass the 2009 Recovery Act and it was written quickly and could have been designed a lot better.  I would have put in around $400 billion for infrastructure spending, especially since the Corps of Engineers says we need about $500 billion of repairs across the country.  We also need small-business tax relief and capital gains tax relief.  If we are going to borrow hundreds of billions of dollars from China and other nations, we might as well put that money to the best use possible and plan a payroll tax holiday to encourage hiring and double the Make Work Pay Tax Credit to $1,000 per individual and $2,000 for couples to encourage consumer spending. 

On foreign policy, as I said before, I think the Obama national security team screwed up the GITMO situation by announcing they would close that military prison without finding an alternative location for these terrorist inmates.  But I think President Obama has done a good job with Afghanistan, conducting a review of the Afghan War instead of just announcing his own policy from day one without having all the facts. And once he had all the facts, he announced an Afghan surge and sent in an additional 30,000 troops. Also, President Obama has made it clear to the world that although America is back as a partner, this doesn't mean that America will be dictated to on foreign policy or anything else.  It does mean we are attempting to garner cooperation where we can. 

So overall I would give President Obama an A- for his handling of foreign policy, with the minus applied to GITMO. Overall I would give the President a B because he could have done better on economic and fiscal policy.  But it's his first year and he's learning.  He's off to a good start with a lot of potential to improve.