The Calm Before the Storm
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
Propagandizing Public Education
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
What Do Stalin, Mao and Obama Have in Common? Nothing.
Over the past several years, as President Barack Obama has occupied the White House, his detractors have ceaselessly labeled his policies as communist or socialist. Pundits like Glenn Beck often carefully choreographed imagery of the Soviet Union’s hammer and sickle flag, or the Nazi’s swastika when referring to Mr. Obama and his policies. The notion that Democrats support socialism has become a foregone conclusion in conservative communities. As one who formally studied economics and political science at BYU, hearing these terms twisted far from their actual meaning, and observing the comparison of programs like Medicare and the Affordable Care Act to Stalinist Russia, make me cringe. For Republican strategists, the purpose in making such comparisons to the genocidal regimes of Stalin, Mao, or Hitler is obvious- striking fear in their largely uninformed constituents. This messaging strategy has worked marvelously as more and more Americans now simply refuse to even consider the merits of any policy proposal that the GOP punditry has labeled “socialist” or “communist.”Read more
Understanding the Conservative Dictionary
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.
Censuring Arizona’s GOP
I personally want to thank Arizona’s Republican Party. From the removal of concealed-carry permits, to SB 1070, to radical border philosophy, to Sheriff Joe’s posse, and now the attacking of Senator John McCain, misguided legislators are alienating key voting demographics in the state. The Hispanic vote is growing leaps and bounds, doubling this past decade and edging close to 30% of the electorate. Moderates are regularly siding with Democrats over issues like gay rights and immigration reform causing key political strategists to take notice. Many have switched Arizona from red to purple going into 2016 and believe this transformation will continue for decades to come.
Current voter evolution is lost on our state leaders. Recently Arizona GOP legislators passed a resolution censuring McCain, a moderate favorite, for his “long and terrible record of drafting, co-sponsoring and voting for legislation best associated with liberal Democrats.” They also used the session to vote on a support measure for non-Arizonan Senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee. You read that correctly – Arizona legislators wasted taxpayer resources to show support for Senators that do not represent their constituents. Of course, this misguided political theater is far from the truth as John McCain’s 90% party-line voting record stands on its own. Probably the most conservative vote of McCain’s career came in 2003 when he, and then-Congressman Jeff Flake, bucked their party voting against a massive prescription drug entitlement program. That single bill accounts for $17 trillion in unfunded liabilities today and one of the largest drivers of our national debt. In contrast that same bill passed with votes coming from Eric Cantor, John Boehner, Paul Ryan, Tom Delay, Jon Kyl, Rick Santorum, Pete Sessions, Darrell Issa and several current Tea Party darlings.
To be fair, Arizona’s divisional rhetoric mimics what we experience across our nation. Conservatism has been replaced with exclusionary politics that cast aside any politician that does not align with their platforms 100% of the time. Cloaked under the guise of the Constitution these political radicals are punishing any politician that steps across the aisle, ignoring the entire compromising fabric of our originating document. Such attitudes were on display earlier this year as the country witnessed the full Tea Party agenda as the government was held hostage by a misguided minority. Such extreme positions were also experienced at local levels as two Colorado State Senators were ousted for supporting the same common-sense gun legislation that Ronald Reagan would have endorsed.
Ironically, embattled Senator McCain’s approach to immigration is the only path that will save Arizona’s current Republican Party. The Hispanic community is a becoming a force and the Tea Party circus is motivating voters across the state. One of Arizona’s residents, a national political strategist for the GOP, commented that such extreme actions such as censuring Senator McCain are why “they (the nation) laugh at us.” I completely agree. Arizona’s intolerant primary voters will soon see the same phenomenon experienced in Nevada, Delaware, and other states where extreme candidates were traded for moderate Democrats, which I will applaud.
A Knockout Punch by Harry Reid
We congratulate the team of Democrat Leaders negotiating the successful end to the government shutdown. We supported their efforts and have a special passion for Senator Reid's masterful legislative skill as Majority Leader. Throughout the ordeal Reid refused to give in to any of the changing demands from Republicans. He also won support from several Republicans in the Senate and eventually prevailed with a bill that was ratified by the House.
Throughout the standoff Republicans continued talking about "negotiation" and "compromise" but their actions reminded voters that a significant portion of their party does not believe in either. Many Republicans took an extreme stance regarding government's role, pushing the mantra "government is the problem" to new heights. Some, like Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, even celebrated the shutdown. Harry Reid recognized their gleeful posturing and understood the improbability of governing those who maintained ideological divides around the role of government.Read more
Shutdown Antics Threaten Constitutional Order
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
Today’s Founding Fathers
We all owe a debt of gratitude to our country’s Founding Fathers. Their drive and tenacity put into place the longest surviving constitutional republic in the world. The Constitution is nothing short of inspired; stitched together through compromise and collective experience. I do not believe it is chance that such an extraordinary group of individuals were able to set aside their vast differences and create a common document. I also believe that today’s presidents are equally inspired and have a deep commitment to the progress of our nation.Read more
Arizona's Medicaid Expansion
"Some people in the church are trying to stop Obamacare."
"Really? How is that possible?"
"I don't know, they want me to sign a petition, and if they get enough signatures, they can overturn Governor Jan Brewer."
"Who is arranging this? Did you ask what the petition does?"
"Somebody from the Stake (a large congregation in the Mormon church). I guess they are asking members to sign a petition which they are saying will stop the expansion of Obamacare."
"Ahhh. They are trying to stop the expansion of Medicaid. They want to overturn Governor Brewer's decision to accept federal funds for Medicaid. Go ahead and sign."
"What? I thought you would be upset. You want me to sign?!"
"Sure. If Arizona wants to cut off its nose to spite its face...well...it's not the first time."
Now, after researching the petition my wife politely declined her signature and explained the benefits of expanding Medicaid and the cost savings of lowering the number of uninsured. I am sure her friend was perturbed. I am sure she was surprised that any rational individual would not agree that Obamacare was a destructive force conjured up by a misguided man in order to decay our healthcare system. So to her, the members of the Greenfield-Gilbert Stake, my fellow Arizonans, and any state opting out of Medicaid expansion I write the following:
Rejecting the expansion of Medicaid in Arizona will hurt our residents and negatively impact our budget. In brokering Obamacare, the Federal Government has accepted the increased financial burden by covering 93% of the incremental state costs. We will see significant savings from uninsured liabilities which will offset our obligation to the Medicaid expansion. Even more importantly, we will be covering thousands of our uninsured, whose choice to work negates eligibility for Medicaid. We will create jobs in the healthcare industry and expand access to preventive services (tests for high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol, cancer screenings, counseling to help people lose weight, quit smoking or reduce alcohol use, routine vaccinations, flu and pneumonia shots, etc).
Currently across the US, states rejecting Medicaid expansion will lose out on $8.4 billion in federal funding, exclude coverage for 3.6 million uninsured, and see $1 billion more in uncompensated spending. Obamacare will not raise taxes on 95% of Americans and will realize $18 billion a year in savings with less uninsured. Medicaid expansion also requires that doctors receive the same compensation as Medicare patients (currently Medicaid pays less). If all states participate twenty-one million Americans will see their rates decline. Obamacare is also completely paid for; it will not add a single dime to our national deficit.
Now my Arizonan friends, don't naively suggest that our state does not need federal money. Arizona is one of several states that receives more that it pays in taxes. Currently the federal government returns $1.20 for every $1 we pay. In fact, over the past 20 years Arizonans have paid $424 billion in taxes and received $629 billion in Federal benefits. We also took money from Obama's stimulus package when our budgets were in complete disarray saving police, fire, and teacher employment. With as much as our state has been given it appears borderline hypocritical to limit access to healthcare for the working poor needing help. The status quo is unacceptable and though not perfect, Obamacare is a step in the right direction for our great state and nation.
***I do not believe the Mormon Church is organizing opposition to Obamacare, but it is the isolated action of a few misguided members. The Mormon Church handbook is clear that "stake presidents and other local leaders should not organize members to participate in political matters or attempt to influence how they participate...Church leaders and members should also avoid statements or conduct that might be interpreted as Church endorsement of any political party, platform, policy, or candidate."
Don't Call Me a Republican
I am not a Republican.
I believe in marriage between a man and a woman. I am a gun owner. I am a senior manager in the middle of corporate America. I detested the Occupy Wall Street movement. I believe unions stifle business growth and drive productivity out of the marketplace. My car is powered by a gas guzzling V-8 engine and I do not cringe every time I fill up the tank. I have read Atlas Shrugged. I liked it so much I read it again. I am a staunch and practicing Mormon. I believe in conservative fiscal policy and am very worried about the near $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities this country faces in the next 75 years. I am a big fan of Reagan. I don’t believe CEOs are paid too much money. I am pro-life.
I am still not a Republican.
I have been called many names by my Republican friends and twitter followers. Socialist. Communist. Liar. Ideologue. Big government. I am none of these. The uses of such phrases do not make me upset because it helps identify a more disparaging element; the Republican Party has lost their identity and justify their positions with disingenuous arguments and logical fallacies. That’s not to say that Democrats are innocent in this regard; it’s just the tolerance for differentiated thinking is so far rooted out of the mainstream GOP. Republicans try to use the same type of litmus behavior to identify Democrats, which is challenging given the diversity of the party. Even worse, there are high levels of justification for twisting facts, leveraging blatant dishonesty, and unethical practices with the belief that the end justifies the means.
Let me provide an example. Currently there are several court cases being pushed through the justice branch of government involving ID cards to stop voter fraud. This sounds reasonable on the surface. However, when you dive into the drivers and sponsors of the legislation you realize the extensive partisan backing and maligning of facts. There have only been 2,068 reported cases in which 10 have been found guilty of alleged in-person voter impersonation since 2000. Yes, you read that correctly, 10. Yet the Republican Party has sponsored a dynamic effort to pass voter laws which by all accounts make it tougher for the poor, students, and minorities to vote; all key demographics of the Democratic Party. Faced with questions around the ethics of their actions a typical response includes, “well, these are only the cases we know of…Who knows how many there actually are.” Uh huh, Right.
Let me provide another example. I watched the vast majority of the Republican National Convention this past week. Although I fully intended to hear weak arguments and faulty logic (I expect the same thing next week at the DNC), I was leveled by the blatant disregard for statements that even remotely looked anything factual. It became so bad that even Fox News wrote an article calling Paul Ryan out for his deceptive spin. Mr. Ryan blamed President Obama’s policies for closing an auto factory that was actually closed under Bush. He blamed President Obama for not implementing the same Simpson-Bowles budget recommendations that he led the charge to kill. He called out President Obama for seeking $716 billion in Medicare cuts that were also built into his budget. He also charged President Obama for our credit rating drop which was due to congressional Republicans using the debt limit as a bargaining chip.
This type of dishonest debate has emerged as the center piece of almost all of my interactions with the right. I have a family member that rails on the parasitic nature of the poor, yet their life was extended through the saving grace of Medicare curing 10 years of unchecked cancer at a ridiculous cost to taxpayers. I know of several Republican Congressmen who blasted the pet projects of President Obama’s stimulus package, yet showed up at the ribbon cuttings to take full credit. Almost every Republican I have spoken with derides socialism yet supports the military, the biggest socialist program in the US. These same individuals also drive on public roads, send their children to public schools, visit national parks, and support the police and fire departments. The mind-numbing-repetitive-labeling of any opposing idea as liberal or socialist completely disregards the meanings of the word and enshrines the speaker in a cloud of ignorance.
Republicans attack welfare for the poor but support bailouts for the rich. They sit on the pedestal of pro-life which diminishes once the embryo takes their first breath. They hide behind a shield of fiscal conservatism but have no idea what is driving the federal budget. They also live in Utopian world of problem solving. Yes I agree, cutting off welfare might entice the poor to work, but it will also drive up crime and promote Darwinism consequences. This type of theoretical thinking is why I do not support Ron Paul – I love his ideas – but his concepts are too drastic to be reasonable.
What annoys me most about the Republican rhetoric is the demonizing (not the opposition) of President Obama. The right’s frustration with President Obama has little to do with what he has not done, but more with what he has. In 2008 President Obama campaigned on single payer healthcare reform, student loan reform, housing reform, stimulus spending, and reduction in the annual deficit. He did not follow through on a secret agenda after election but passed the exact legislation campaigned on. Where President Obama fell short had more to his compromising spirit than his polarizing agenda. He passed healthcare reform, but instead of single payer, he contracted private insurance companies similar to Romneycare. He did not cut the deficit in half because he extended the Bush tax cuts, a broken campaign promise. Instead of trillion dollars of stimulus spending he scaled back the package to include $300 billion of tax cuts. Each of these changes favored the right, but you would never know by their posturing.
Now I am sure several Republicans will read my arguments and cry foul; that I am engaging in the exact same stereotyping I am calling out. Fair enough. However, the levels are not even in the same ballpark. The last two years of congressional leadership is an embarrassment to American politics. The House floor has voted 31 times to repeal Obamacare knowing the bill would never leave the chamber. The Senate has filibustered even the most contrite votes including lower court judge appointments. Yet this is an unethical strategic advantage for the Republicans. Republicans hide behind the smaller-government-works-better mantra driven by legislative inefficiencies that they create.
It’s not that I am fundamentally opposed to the ideas shared by Republicans; it’s more that I am opposed to the way they share. Even within party, dissension from core platforms brands the iconic label of RINO (Republican In Name Only) which is the scarlet “A” of the Republican party. Such weeding out of centrist ideas fundamentally shifts the political balance and swings the pendulum too far to the right. This type of political rhetoric will continue to cost the Republicans seats in Congress, much like the last election (NV and DE). Of course any opposition to Republican ideas always results in the same typical hyperbole -- liberal, socialist, or even a liar -- which I never take personally.
Just don’t call me a Republican.