Barack Obama is moving Congress so fast, we're approaching warp speed. Consider the fact that neither presidents Reagan nor Clinton got their (much smaller) stimulus packages passed for over six months -- and Obama got his passed in mere weeks. And with Clinton and Reagan, that was a major party of their presidential legacy, whereas with Obama it is just the first item on a very long list of enormous changes to be made. Soon.
Archive of Articles for February, 2009
The District of Columbia is about to take a big step along the road to political relevance. They appear poised to receive a full vote for their "shadow" member of the United States House of Representatives. In a bargain which harkens back to the Missouri Compromise, Utah will also add a House member at the same time. Much has been said about this story in the past week, but everyone seems to be overlooking one good result which will come from the new arrangement: a tie will never again be possible in the Electoral College, at least not without a third-party candidate picking up at least one elector.
The "Great Communicator," for our younger readers who were not exposed to him, was what the media eventually decided to call President Ronald Reagan. The title of this article, for our unhipper readers (excuse me, for "the suave-ically-challenged"), is an homage to Frank Zappa's boxed set of albums entitled Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar. You see, while Frank Zappa was a consummate musician as a guitarist and bandleader, his eclectic (to say the least) lyrical style, not to mention his singing ability, turned a lot of people off. So he released a three-album all-instrumental boxed set just for such semi-fans, with disks titled: "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar," "Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More," and "Return of the Son Of Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar." If Zappa couldn't have fun with the lyrics, he certainly wasn't going to forego having some fun with the album and song names (best track name: "Variations on the Carlos Santana Secret Chord Progression").
The Republican Party is at a real fork in the road. It is rare, in politics, to be able to see with absolute clarity such dividing points while they are happening, I should point out. Usually these things are analyzed after the fact, when conclusions can be drawn with certainty. But the GOP is now at such a point, and it faces two choices: absolute purity, or some shade or another of pragmatism ("the road less traveled," as it were, for Republicans these days).
Is President Barack Obama going to actually follow through on a vague promise he made on the campaign trail -- to fix the inherent unfairness of Warren Buffett paying a smaller percentage of his income in taxes than his secretary does? Call it the Buffett Conundrum: multimillionaires (and even some multibillionaires) pay less than half the tax rate as the employees who work for them (who make far less in income). But now, Obama has leaked his first budget outline, and it appears he is serious about attempting to fix this tax policy travesty.
We'll get to Rick Santelli, his CNBC rant, and the White House's reaction in a bit, I promise. But I've got to start with a rant of my own, over what just happened with California's budget. Feel free to skip to the next section if you'd like, but the issue could have national implications.
I find plenty of local elected officials seriously annoying, too, I should mention. As a matter of fact, I find the politics of a large segment of the population seriously annoying. Boy, they better stock up on blank citations, as they're going to have to write a lot of tickets for that one. I find certain movies seriously annoying. And don't even get me started on how seriously annoying television is (starting with "the news").
After we get through this season of passing necessary emergency legislation (in order to yank the American economy back from the cliff Bush led us to), Congress is going to have to turn its attention to the federal budget. They didn't pass one last year, and this year's budget is right around the corner as well. But a little-known rule in the Senate may dramatically change the balance of power between the parties during this process. It's called "reconciliation." And it's a magic bullet to slay Republican opposition to passing a budget with President Obama's priorities and agenda intact.
In the normal course of events, I try to avoid writing about California state politics. Our state government is so outrageous in normal times, that it requires an above-average situation of looniness for me to do so (Larry Flynt running for governor, for instance). Speaking of governors, I can tell you that we [...]
Since it's the random Monday when we celebrate "Presidents' Day," and since it is the year of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln, I'd like to take a moment to see whether any lessons can be learned from Lincoln in the Obama age. Lincoln and Obama seem linked together in our minds already (Obama encourages such, it must be noted), so I'd like to look back to Lincoln's First Inaugural Address and see what it has to say to us today.