As many of you have probably guessed, the change in the control of the House and Senate is welcomed by me. Oversight, balance, and hopefully bipartisanship will be restored to the federal government, in hopes that the divided America will champion both sides of the argument.
I have also discussed with friends and family the expectations of the new Democratic powers. Interestingly enough, other perspectives are a bit more extensive then mine. I suspect that Democrats will work with President Bush to raise the minimum wage, find common ground on immigration, and work out a plan to fix the Medicare system. For those who believe that the Iraq policy will be reversed, or that taxes will increase, you have watched one too many campaign commercials. There is a larger focus of the Democrats’ control of congress, November of 2008.
Waiting for the Clinton/Obama ticket (just guessing), Democrats in the House will be careful with their oversight. They will not cut funding for the Iraqi war to change policy, as was done withVietnam, and they will not use any pre-war miscalculations to punish President Bush. They will use their political soapbox to weed out corruption, and try to exploit findings involving their Republican colleagues. They will not try to pass any drastic legislation that will hurt their popularity with the moderate voter. Plus, the President maintains veto power, and will probably use it more than just once as in the previous six years. The Democrats will use their renewed power to restage committee heads, and bring legislation to the floor that benefits their agenda. The leadership might sponsor wedge issues that hurt the President’s popularity, like stem cell research.
I believe that the congressional changing of the guard is not a vote for the policies of the Democrats, but a referendum of the actions of the Republicans. Democrats have earned about as much “political capital” as Bush in 2004, and hopefully will maintain a better track record. As Jon Stewart put it, “Democrats played the role of the boy who left the room as his brother is punished for burning the garage down”. I am excited to see the power shift, and hopefully it will lead to a better America.
One of the most controversial moves of President Bush’s presidency occurred last year. While Congress was on break, President Bush’s nominee of UN Ambassador slid in the back door. During the confirmation hearings John Bolton was accused of harsh treatment of his subordinates. His record was challenged by Democrats and Republicans alike. His nomination left committee not with a stamp of approval, but with a washing of hands. Sending the nomination to the full Senate allowed the committee to play the political game; support the President, but avoid responsibility for his decisions. Bolton was highly unpopular with the minority Democrats and the nomination was resented by the Republicans. The Ambassador’s hearings quickly approached winter recess, which came with no resolve. President Bush played an unusual presidential card, and placed the new US Ambassador without confirmation through an emergency appointment.
Due to the rules of such an appointment, Bolton’s Ambassadorship expires at the end of 2006. President Bush has asked the lame duck session of Congress, to renew the appointment alienating Democrat’s opposition. This interesting political move might backfire on the President. With Republicans crippled by the policies of the President, such a controversial nomination will become a wedge to the congressional body. Even if the nomination is approved within the next two months, Democrats will look at this appointment as partisan politics. They will believe President Bush’s comments about bipartisanship and compromise a media event, with actions speaking louder then words.
Any Fox Network viewer will tell you that the consequences for Democrats taking back the two houses of congress are catastrophic. Partisan fighting would continue, the war on terror would take a massive blow, and the possibility of presidential impeachment would loom. And though each of these concerns are unfounded and almost laughable (do you think the Democrats would impeach President Bush to put Cheney in power?), there will be some major changes that will occur.
The legislation that will be introduced “within five minutes,” as Nancy Pelosi notes, is the proposal to let the government negotiate drug prices. In a country seeded with capitalistic roots, how does the largest purchaser of drugs forfeit negotiating power? The very idea is perplexing. In 2003 when the congress passed a bill banning governmental negotiating, the idea was to let the third party insurance companies use their understanding of the industry to navigate prices. However, what happened next did not surprise the minority party. The drug prices paid by Medicaid/Medicare increased 10% a year since the law went into effect. Even more startling, the Veterans Benefits, which are not part of this legislation, buy their drugs at 50%-60% of the prices Medicare pays, though they purchase a fraction of the volume.
Yes, Big Pharma is worried; and rightfully so. They have already poured $500,000 in to Rick Santorum’s close race (the leading proponent of the 2003 Medicare bill), and multiple others across the country. If the Democrats do impeach President Bush, it will be long after drug prices drop.
(A great article can be found in the Wall Street Journal entitled, “Fearing a Democratic Victory, Drug Makers Fund Key Races.”)
Congressman Ryan makes a point concerning the torture bill being debated in Congress. Worth a listen.
As we continue to fight this global war on terror (actually, let me rephrase that), as we fight this war in Iraq it is alarming how many American’s have no idea of the power struggles between Sunnis and Shiites.
Who can deny that Saddam Hussein was an evil and malice dictator? However, would you be shocked to know that woman’s rights in Iraq, America’s relations with Iran, and partisanship in Iraq has become increasingly worse without Saddam?
Saddam is a Sunni, and Sunni’s are a minority party in Iraq. How, you might ask, if Sunnis are a minority power could Saddam remain as a dictator? Easy, fear. There were many attempts at taking Saddam out of power by the two other parties.The Kurds paid dearly for their attempt with the massacre fueled by chemical warfare. American’s determination to label this genocide is incorrect; Saddam was not interested in destroying the culture, but to send a strong message to those who opposed him. Shiites were just as scared, though they maintained the majority of the population, and watched the Sunni leader control Iraq for decades.
With Saddam out of power and the seeds of democracy now growing, the Shiites are using their majority to take back control. However, the Shiite’s are interested in intertwining religious ideals into their new constitution. One of those ideals is the lack of influence woman maintain in society. Iraqi woman can expect more oppression, less freedom of thought, and a non-existent role in any position of influence.
Over the course of Saddam’s administration, the Sunni controlled Iraqi government was at odds with Shiite dominated Iran. Saddam was a spoken enemy of Iran, and the Shiite Iraqis looked to Iran for strength and support. With Saddam removed from power and the Shiites now in control of Iraq, loyalties run deep and an alliance between the two great Middle East countries is being formed. Look past the soft media and you will find many Iran loyalists in the newly formed Iraqi government. America’s purpose of creating stability in the Middle East is being accomplished. Unfortunately it’s not the stability we were hoping for.
Another issue between Sunnis and Shiites is the great partisan divide that continues to widen. Shiites now in power are looking to avenge the many years of Sunni control over their nation. The problem with democracy in the Middle East is history runs deep and is not forgotten. Unlike America where the domination of power by one party can easily be ousted by the diversity of the population, Iraqis at the mercy of the united Shiite citizens. Many Sunni delegates have walked away from the new government in complete dismay because the Shiites propose and ratify legislation that opposes their group. This discontent between these two cultures is also what is sparking a civil war.
As we continue to watch Iran speak with more confidence and less remorse, know that we have made their position stronger by providing a friendly neighbor. The Sunni-controlled Iraq is history, and history the Shiites will not forget.
(There is a great article in the NY Times titled, "Can You Tell a Sunni From a Shiite?")
Could our two oil executives who are running America actually have some impact on gas prices? Recent polls seem to suggest this idea, with the majority of American believing that the recent uncharacteristic dip in gas prices is the basis for some conspiracy theory. And why not? Gas is down a dollar a gallon in most neighborhoods to the delight of all Republican candidates.
However, the reality that gas is impacted by the commodities market is not easily understood. Investors buy future commodities much like they do other investments. They buy on speculation that the prices will rise, and sell to realize a profit. One of the reasons Southwest Airlines has continued to realize profits, is largely dependent on how they have managed their oil portfolio. Many investors bought oil at a high price speculating that another hurricane might damage the oil supply from the Gulf of Mexico (where 25% of our oil supply comes from). With no real hurricane activity coupled with the ending of summer travel months, demand has decreased and negative speculation has brought skyrocketing gas prices back to earth.
Will these prices last? Most likely no. When demand rises, and the commodity markets begin to return confidence to investors, gas prices will again increase. For the time being, Christmas has come early for Republicans, and they are playing the Santa role bringing the gift of gasoline to America.
CNN Money Article
There is a new report being published today trying to determine how many Iraqi lives have been taken by the war. The figure of 655,000 deaths might shock you, as they did me, largely due to the poor reporting of today's media. The writeup can be found in the Washington Post.
A new report came out earlier this month reporting on the continual increase in economic measures. However, before you spend your day window shopping, realize a couple significant points:
- The economy is being driven by record profits from America’s largest corporations. Though this is good for economic measures, nominal wages have not increased, meaning the profits are not trickling down.
- Unemployment rate is remaining constant. Constant, but unstable. Our country continues to replace skilled workers with seasonal and low wage labor. The new report indicates that the Rust Belt is suffering the most with labor issue, given the layoffs forced by the auto industry.
- The National Deficit figures for this year will be reported on Friday. The deficit has been cut in half since 2004’s record setting figure of $500 billion. Many of my friends have asked how much a 250 billion dollar deficit will affect our fiscal situation…not much. 250 billion in a government budget of nine trillion is minimal.
- The greatest contributor to the decreasing deficit is the record profits by corporations, which increase the nation’s corporate tax. It should be noted that personal income tax has not played a role in the deficit, and has remained constant. This is important to note as the Bush tax cuts of 2002 and 2004 were almost exclusively to personal income taxes.
- With interest rates turning upward over the past year, the real estate market has slowed. This will pose a problem for economic growth to continue. The real estate market accounted for a large portion (20% I believe) of new economic growth over the past three years. Investment in residential housing decreased at the sharpest rate (down 11.1%) within the past decade.
Ever wonder how reliable your news source is? A couple years back there was a study conducted on news sources and the viewer’s/reader’s knowledge of current events. Very interesting read especially when the report begins to detail cable and network news programming. Ever wonder which viewers have the most distorted perception of current events? Read on….
(Fox News Incorrectly Labled Mark Foley as a Democrat)