After the November 2012 election, Republicans across the country were understandably frustrated. Conservative media outlets had been predicting an easy win for former Governor Mitt Romney. The right-wing media and blogosphere kept telling Republican voters that the polls were biased towards President Obama. Well-renowned conservative pundit George Will famously predicted that Romney would win the Electoral College in a 321-217 landslide. Conservative televangelist Pat Robertson told his followers that God had informed him that Mitt Romney would win and become a two-term president. Instead, Barack Obama was handily reelected and Democrats gained seats in both the Senate and the House. Demographers’ predictions of the expanding importance of minority voters, especially Latinos, in presidential elections were spot-on.Read more
Last week, President Obama announced that because of Congress’s failure to pass a bipartisan immigration reform bill, he is taking executive action to help improve our badly broken immigration system. At the same time, Obama acknowledged that his executive action would not solve all of our immigration challenges and that only new legislation would provide a comprehensive solution. Notwithstanding the fact that many previous Republican presidents used executive actions to reform our nation’s immigration policies, Republicans predictably responded to President Obama’s action with outrage, even though it was House Republicans who purposely stalled on taking up immigration reform after the Senate overwhelmingly passed a bipartisan reform bill in 2013. Among those expressing disdain for the President’s actions are Mormon conservatives. However, if those conservatives understood the position of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on immigration reform, they would applaud the President’s initiative.Read more
So we lost the Senate. Yea, it hurts. Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. And get ready for the storm – the real storm -- coming in two years. You know, the political storm where Democrats take back the Senate and retain the White House. No, I’m not being overly optimistic. No, I am not riding on dancing unicorns jumping through candy-covered rainbows. I am saddled on a brute horse charging through the political lines of defeat. The Electoral College is on our side. The popular vote is on our side. The Senatorial election map is on our side. 2014 will be a contest quickly forgotten and 2016 will be our triumphant return to Rome.Read more
Across the U.S., conservative-dominated school boards have sought to manipulate public education curricula by overruling relevant experts in subjects such as history, economics, and science, establishing requirements to teach subjects through a conservative lens, and via outright censorship. In 2010, the Texas Board of Education approved a social studies curriculum that questioned the Founding Fathers’ commitment to secular government and presented conservative political philosophies in a positive light. Astonishingly, the school board cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions across the world in the 18th and 19th centuries and replaced him with religious figures such as St. Thomas Aquinas and John Calvin because the board members disliked Jefferson’s support for separation between church and state.Read more
As any viewer of Fox News will tell you, America has become an entitlement nation. This claim is reinforced by example after example of individuals gaming the system or dissected across Fox’s political theater. The right’s fixation on the poor has become so blatant Fox has even come up with a pseudo-correspondent that fuels the misleading perception. Jason Greenslate, or “Food Stamp Surfer”, has been remarkably effective reinforcing the narrative of widespread welfare abuse. In fact, he was even mentioned by Representative Tim Huelskamp (R) on the House floor before a taking a food stamp vote, "You can no longer sit on your couch or ride a surfboard like Jason in California and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you." Hmmm. I’m guessing Representative Huelskamp missed the irony.
The Republican grab bag of anecdotal examples is very effective in creating a “poor are lazy” perception. To many on the right, those who take advantage of entitlements or welfare services are parasitic or morally deviant. This unabashed stereotype is important when justifying their political ideology: Democrats want everyone to live off the government, Republicans want individuals to succeed driven by personal motivation which handouts undermine.
The problem with such logic is demographics paint an entirely different picture of welfare recipients. Did you know that half of food stamp expenditures benefit children? Or that one in five veterans take advantage of the program? Did you know that food stamps represent a minuscule 1.8% of our federal budget or that food stamp fraud accounts for less than 5% of the total program? Such information might change the perception of voters about the role of government which is why “Food Stamp Surfer” becomes the poster child of the Fox News repertoire. Collective data is not personal and unpersuasive. You might not know any of the millions of children and veterans that are supported by welfare but you do know your aunt’s best friend’s sister is sporting a $500 iPhone paid for by the government.
GOP: Dear Kids, 50% of all food stamps go to you. Work harder and stop being moochers.
— Matty Ice (@MattyIceAZ) May 19, 2014
Misinformation about our Nation’s entitlement programs (Welfare, Medicare, and Social Security) is equally exaggerated. Even the word “entitlement” conjures negative connotation driven by ignorance and misunderstanding. Many Conservatives are enraged that we spend 57% of our federal budget on entitlement programs without any consideration to the demographics. Over half of all entitlement dollars are spent on the elderly. Another 20% are spent on the disabled. 18% are spent on the working poor like Walmart employees. In fact, almost $1,000 annually is spent per employee offsetting Walmart’s benefit liability. You shouldn't be thanking Walmart for low prices, Walmart should be thanking you.
So what of the remaining 9% able-bodied freeloaders drawing entitlements? Let’s hang them. I’ll get the tar, you get the feathers. But let's be careful, in our haste to enact fairness and justice we might be punishing a demographic that has equal need for taxpayer’s help. There are thousands of students that are attending colleges and universities while trying to support families. Many are studying for high earning careers as dentists and doctors, easily returning the entitlements being invested today. Even if we do conclude the 9% are actual moochers like Jason Greenslate, we should still resist the urge to throw the baby out with the surfer.
When addressing the growing expenditures associated with the rising baby boom population, little has been proposed by either party. Instead, partisan rancor has been unleashed and misdirection has become the norm. I have several friends who openly blame President Obama for the escalating debt and the growth of entitlement spending behind Baby Boomers. This is incorrect for three reasons:
- President Obama has not signed any law restructuring welfare or entitlements
- President Obama has not signed any law restructuring welfare or entitlements
- President Obama has not signed any law restructuring welfare or entitlements
Even President Obama’s signature legislation, Obamacare, is deficit neutral (CBO) offset by mandates and penalties with no impact to our deficit. Where our anger should be directed is government’s inaction, as the last major change to entitlements was the 2003 Prescription Drug bill. We should be holding the House of Representatives accountable, since the Constitution dictates laws originate in the lower chamber, to generate common sense bipartisan solutions. But herein lies the problem for the GOP-led House. Any changes to entitlement programs that do not include Medicare and Social Security reform are a wasted effort and any successful change will anger core constituents. Trying to repeal Obamacare 50 different times is a much safer play for House members interested in keeping their jobs through the next election cycle.
All spending bills must originate in the House. So when the GOP is complaining about Obama's productivity, please ask what they are doing. — Matty Ice (@MattyIceAZ) May 27, 2014
Even if undermining entitlements fosters partisan opportunities our problems are not disappearing anytime soon. I’m sure my Libertarian friends would suggest a free-market solution. Remember when Medicare was passed in 1965? Only half of our nation’s elderly had healthcare and costs associated with medicine were skyrocketing. The Sixties’ free-market solution was basically a Darwin-driven model. Can you imagine being a 55 year old senior looking for healthcare coverage after being dropped by your company’s insurer upon retirement?
How about charities? Can they fill the void? Based off of IRS data charitable giving (currently $300B) would need to increase three-fold to cover current liabilities. This also assumes every donation dollar is appropriated against entitlements; not building churches, saving rhinoceroses in Africa, or giving to one of Karl Rove’s SuperPACs.
Regardless of any proposed solution the very first step in delivering lasting reform is awareness. Data has become the newest inappropriate four-letter word being replaced with trivial anecdotal examples. But I get it, fully understanding issues takes effort and who wants to waste their time when partisan blogs are like crack to drug addicts (just slap "liberal" on this post so the right can disparage the content).
We need to avoid assuming our best-friend’s cousin scheming the welfare system is representative of millions of Americans looking for help. As Jon Stewart said recently, stop looking for the elusive “Welfare Bigfoot”. Start looking across the street, recognizing that single mother struggling to provide for her child, and be thankful we are in a much better place. Once we understand who it is we are helping, the solutions will become more clear.
When the GOP says entitlements are for the lazy, they are talking about seniors and the disabled where 73% of our entitlement spending goes.
— Matty Ice (@MattyIceAZ) May 28, 2014
Several weeks ago, George Zimmerman, the man acquitted of murder in the shooting death of an unarmed teenager, Trayvon Martin, made an appearance at a Florida gun show as the guest of honor. Zimmerman was invited by the gun show’s organizer, who had supported Zimmerman at his trial, to help promote the event by signing autographs. The appalling reaction of several of my right-wing acquaintances after I complained on Facebook about the celebration of Zimmerman as a hero prompted me to write this post.
These are the basic facts of the case as I understand them: Trayvon Martin was doing nothing wrong, walking home from a convenience store, when he was stalked by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, who was suspicious that Martin could be a burglar. Rather than waiting for the police to handle the situation, as is the duty of a neighborhood watchman, and contrary to the directives of the 911 operator with whom Zimmerman spoke, Zimmerman got out of his car and confronted Martin. We may never know who threw the first punch, but it should not matter. Even if it was Martin, doesn’t an unarmed kid have the right to defend himself from a stalker? If George’s plea in his trial was that he shot Martin in self-defense, what about the right to self-defense for an unarmed teen who was stalked by an over-zealous neighborhood watchman, while walking home in the dark?
Most Americans claim they are tired of bitter partisanship and Congressional gridlock in Washington. The non-stop manufactured crises, including the show-downs over the federal budget and debt ceiling, the more than 40 House votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and the unprecedented use of the filibuster in the Senate to block even routine executive and judicial appointments, are just some of the ways politicians have log-jammed our democracy. Last October’s unpopular government shut down led to the furlough of nearly 1 million workers, while another million were compelled to work without pay. Any astute observer of American politics knows that one of the primary reasons for this Congressional dissonance is hyper-partisan redistricting, or gerrymandering.
Most Americans support raising the minimum wage, comprehensive immigration reform, and universal background checks on gun buyers. Americans do not want subsidies for oil companies and tax breaks for corporate jet owners. And Americans are in favor of balanced deficit reduction that includes both new revenues and spending cuts. Yet, partisan gerrymandering is why these and many other highly popular proposed reforms have no chance of passing in the current Congress.
Lately I have been engaged in several debates and discussions with my conservative friends. I am often entertained with how they use words or phrases to exemplify a position or undercut my arguments. Since I find many of these tactics somewhat humorous, I decided to share some of the user's perceived definitions and place them against the litmus test of reality. Enjoy!
2nd Amendment: The right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. Reality: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. The Framers were opposed to standing armies and felt it was the people’s role to defend the Free State (which is ironic given our current military structure). There was purpose in gun ownership and the Founding Brothers always supported moderation in all things.
Birthers: Those who oppose any presidential nominee born outside of the United States as per the Constitution. Reality: This view really only applies to Democrat nominees. Currently one of the GOP presidential front-runners is Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz who was born in Canada. John McCain was born in Panama and George Romney was born in Mexico.
Communist: (also see Socialist) Conservatives are not really sure of the difference between a Socialist and Communist. Reality: Communism is COMPLETE governmental control of capital and resources. Nobody supports this, not liberals, not even Hitler.
Constitution: Our nation's founding document that can only be correctly interpreted by conservatives. Reality: The Constitution is cherry picked by conservatives to fit their agenda. Appointing judges, nominating cabinet positions, controlling the executive branch, and conducting foreign policy fall squarely under the President’s command but is undermined by conservatives on a regular basis. Advice and Consent by the Senate is being abused and the House of Representatives does not represent the majority of the people due to gerrymandering.
Gun Control: The belief that government is coming for your guns and undermining your rights. Reality: Gun control is common sense solutions to help curb the rampant violence being experienced in our country. Ideas such as the Brady Bill, background checks, concealed carry permits, resources for the ATF to enforce current laws, and gun dealer inventory requirements are all solutions that can help prevent a portion of our 30,000 gun related deaths each year.
Entitlements: The giving out of free handouts to the lazy and parasitic by the government. Reality: 60% of all entitlements go to seniors, 20% go to the disabled, 10% go to working families, and another 10% go to non-working individuals and families (including college students). It should also be noted that red states take more entitlements per capita than blue states.
Executive Orders: A power grab by the President of the United States as a way to circumvent the Constitution. Reality: The President of the United States has the authority to regulate how the executive branch functions.
Family Values: The basis for America’s greatness and the aspiration of how we should live as a society. Reality: Conservatives use family values as an ambiguous argument trying to suppress any diversity in social norms.
Food Stamps: Free handouts to the lazy. Reality: 50% of all food stamps go to children, and another 15% to seniors. 1 in 5 veterans are also recipients of food stamps.
Liberal: Any person that expresses a difference of opinion with a conservative. Reality: A liberal is any person who fights for individual liberties. The definition has been twisted by conservatives and misused to represent any person offering a difference of opinion. Being labeled a liberal brings full discredit in any political conversation or debate with a conservative.
Liberal Media: Any media outside of conservative news sources. Reality: This term is used when conservatives lack a coherent response to any data being sourced. This could be viewed as the ultimate debate cop-out which, by disregarding the source, immediately invalidates all arguments.
National Debt: The amount of money we have to borrow due to the President’s budget. Reality: The Debt is a function of multiple administrations impacting mandatory expenditures that cannot be changed unless reversed by the House, Senate, and President working together.
National Deficit: The same as the National Debt (really – I hear this all the time). Reality: The National Deficit is the annual (not total) gap in spending vs. receipts.
Pro-Choice: A liberal position that encourage woman to seek abortions for their poor choices. Reality: Pro-Choice does not mean pro-abortion. Abortion is a complicated choice and the decision cannot be lumped into one generic stereotype. Pro-Choice should be left up to the individual’s doctor, religious authority, family and not directed by government influence. It should also be noted that 30% of all abortions are by married women and the abortion rate has been declining rapidly since 1980.
Pro-Life: A position that believes the embryo is a living person, and the sanctity must be protected at all costs. Reality: Pro-life arguments typically end at conception.
Ronald Reagan: The ultimate conservative and the gold standard for Republicans. Reality: Ronald Reagan supported gun legislation, signed pro-choice legislation, passed two of the largest tax hikes in American history, tripled the National Debt, passed full access for the uninsured to use emergency rooms, provided amnesty for three million undocumented workers, and signed several pieces of social reform legislation into law. I’m pretty sure he would be kicked out of the Republican party today.
RINO: Republican In Name Only Reality: Name given to any Republican that does not maintain total loyalty to party ideas and platforms. I have seen Republican legislators who vote with the party 95% of the time and still be labeled a RINO.
Science: A selective explanation of data and theory that can be opposed for political justification. Reality: Public opinion does not trump scientific data.
Socialist: (also see Communist) Any person who supports government programs, fair taxation policies, or pretty much anything that is associated with the Democratic Party. Reality: Socialism is governmental control of capital and resources. The police, fire department, public schools, libraries, national parks, roads and bridges, judicial system, and the military are all socialist organizations. Our country has always been a mixed-market economic system balancing socialism and capitalism.
Tea Party: A political movement that is holding our leaders responsible both fiscally and conservatively. Reality: A political movement that brings little to no ideas to the table and uses opposition as its only weapon. The Tea Party takes extreme stances on every conservative issue and has been detrimental to the party when it comes to elections (Republicans would have control of the Senate today if it wasn't for Tea Party candidates). The Tea Party creates gridlock and then points to the same gridlock as to why government doesn't work.
Tyrannical Government: Our nation’s leadership making obsessive power grabs to suppress the ideas of the majority. Reality: A conservative narcissist phrase used as fear-mongering to generate divide among our citizens. Simply refuted, ask any believer why a tyrannical government would willingly submit to public elections.
The current shutdown of the federal government and upcoming showdown over the debt ceiling has caused many people to ask who is to blame for this gridlock. The media, in its effort to try to report both sides of the story, often end up giving balanced treatment to an unbalanced phenomenon. What we have is an extremist element within the minority political party that refuses to accept the results of the previous elections. Leading up to the shutdown, House Republicans demanded defunding of the Affordable Care Act (or Obamacare) in exchange for passing a continuing resolution budget that would fund the rest of the federal government for a brief period. Republicans also threatened to prevent the debt ceiling from being raised that could result in a catastrophic default on our national debt if their demands are not met. In making these demands, Republicans are attempting to thwart the Constitutional order of our government while threatening financial and economic chaos.Read more
During my freshman year at BYU, a conservative friend of mine tried to explain to me why recycling, and caring for the environment in general, were scripturally unsound practices. He cited the LDS Doctrine and Covenants Section 59 verses 16 to 19, which, in a nutshell, indicate that the Lord provided all of the natural things on the earth "for benefit and the use of man, both to please the eye and to gladden the heart; yea, for food and raiment." My friend’s attitude was that if the earth and all the things on it are for our benefit, why bother to protect the environment? He conveniently left out the next verse, which states, "for unto this end were they made to be used, with judgment, not to excess, neither by extortion." The scripture is clear: we are to be wise and reasonable stewards of our natural resources. George Handley, a professor at BYU, outlined several fundamental principles of environmental stewardship in LDS belief, which I won’t go into here, but are worth reviewing. Unfortunately, far too many people who claim to be Christians do not feel a duty to care for and protect the earth.Read more