Sequestration and the Future of the GOP

Less than two days to go before the sequestration of $85 billion for fiscal year 2012-2013 kicks in and the weak-kneed Republicans are struggling to find a compromise that gives the President another victory. They fear another loss in public perception of their management of the American economy. This demonstrates on many levels why last November’s election gave split results.

Arguments from moderate Democrats and Republicans now emanate suggesting the need for flexibility in making these cuts. They want to give the President the authority to adjust these cuts. The President has continuously used Executive Orders to accomplish political aims beyond the intent of the Constitutional framers. Yet, curiously, he refuses to use that power in this case. This can only mean that he does not want to improve the situation. Maximal pain gives him the edge in growing the government and increasing spending despite the lack of revenue. Previously, he had to present the cuts that would result under this legislation; these could have been massaged for the benefit of the public, yet he chose to make them draconian.

In the end, he hopes to eliminate the GOP majority in the House in 2014, which would free him from lame-duck status for the last two years of his term. This is another issue given to him to demagogue. Why are we spending $2 billion in the Transportation Department to send employees to training conventions? Could this be more important than adequate numbers of traffic controllers? Does anyone expect legal challenges in this regard? So much for the argument he made on Monday.

Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano claimed that we will have less safe borders due to these cuts. They have threatened to release 10,000 illegal aliens held by ICE in Arizona due to lack of beds and manpower. This is unfortunate since these aliens have committed crimes necessitating the incarceration. Yet, the Department has started releasing some criminals ahead of the Sequester. Again, maximal pain and political punishment are meted out for a state that has opposed the President.

The Sequester has been delayed for two months which was to give both parties time to find a more reasonable and intelligent way to make the cuts to the growth in spending. Therefore, the real cuts will be about $68 billion. The Sequester was intended to be too onerous to ever occur. Yet, we are again at the last minute scarring the public. Never fail to use a crisis to get what you want. The President managed to take a rather expensive golfing trip only a week ago. No urgency then to sit down with the Congress.

The idea for this Sequester originated in the White House according to Bob Woodward. The President denied this during the election, but finally the White House Press Secretary admitted this fact. Why have the Republicans not constantly mentioned it and used it against the President as a flip-flop? The public relations disaster for the GOP is of their making. The general press will certainly support the President, but the GOP must adjust to this by creating new outlets for information

The total being saved for the entire year is less than the amount the Federal government borrows in one month to maintain the budgetary debt. This is the most important argument that the Republicans can make on the national level to gain back the White House. It robs our future generation’s wealth and threatens to bankrupt our nation. This is enough reason to make some cuts to spending. Weakened politicians see the polls holding them at fault for the Sequester, but the President ultimately will pay a price for lost jobs and weak economy.

Some Republicans are now calling for more taxes and loophole reductions. Can the Republican base ever trust these leaders if they falter on this issue. Some worry that giving the President more flexibility increases his power. Yet, the lack of an annual budget hides his already increased power through continuing resolutions. The President will never have enough taxes in place to satisfy his spending desires. Therefore, the budgetary gap will never be closed.

The national debt now approaches $17 trillion. Together with unfunded governmental liabilities at the state and federal levels, there is in excess of $70 trillion in future liabilities. There is insufficient money in the entire world to guarantee this debt. This Sequester does not reduce spending, but reduce the rate of growth. This fight will determine whether sanity ever returns to our national priorities.

On the political level, a loss for the President will embolden the opposition. This will strengthen them when they battle over the debt ceiling authorization in May. Recently, it was recognized by the CBO that over $100 billion in payments was made to people in error last year alone. This exceeds the amount of the Sequester. The federal spending has doubled since 2000. At this rate, we cannot hope to achieve a balanced budget.

The President has gotten Democrats to call for a “balanced approach” to the effort to reduce our federal budget deficit. Poll testing show this resonates with the public. It is time for the GOP to provide a definition for this term that truly is balanced. The future of the GOP as a dominant party requires this realignment. The President uses “fairness” as the mantra, but what is fair about robbing from your children and grandchildren?

Our capitalistic system will fall if private banking capital is crowded out by federal borrowing. This is the aim of our President: To weaken the system that fuels the private sector, thereby strengthening the government sector in our economy. He is already redefining the conception of “socialism” by growing the government influence over businesses rather than by direct ownership of those businesses. The regulatory control over health insurance and the banking system demonstrates this effort. Because the GOP and Mitt Romney did not make this the focus of the campaign, many stayed home and did not vote. Social issues are important, but this is the essential divide between the two national parties.

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A Plea to the 112th Congress to Heed Our Founding Fathers

This article was written in January 2011 as the Republicans assumed power in response to overreaching by President Obama during the previous two years. After the fiscal cliff negotiations concluded last evening giving us a very poor compromise, it is necessary to remember that the House is our only protection from an imperial presidency. The Senate is dysfunctional and will not pass a budget nor vote on any legislation it receives from the House limiting spending. As a new House is sworn in, we can hope that some sanity will emerge and halt our glide toward insolvancy.

With new leadership in Congress, the conservative ascendancy has begun. Are Representatives John Boehner and Eric Cantor prepared to follow our founding fathers’ intentions? Our country was founded on principles rarely taught today. Opposing socialist governance is not enough. Our founders were not conservatives or progressives. As Enlightenment era of enthusiasts, who valued the individual decision maker, they resembled modern day libertarians. Founders wanted the least powerful federal government that could unite the several sovereign states. Their earlier attempt at small federal government failed when they abandoned the Articles of Confederation in 1787. The Constitution was developed with many compromises allowing the states autonomy while providing a central government that could govern a large and diverse nation. Since much of American history is taught from the prospective of an apologist, students are not given an appreciation of this great experiment in freedom. Our founders were radical in their approach, but they were not collectivists.
President Obama’s worldwide apology tour reflected the progressive theme that American individualism is grandiose and threatening to the world. When he says the country has been arrogant, he is expressing the historical approach taught in many American schools for the last 50 years. His speeches set a new tone throughout the world, but little else has resulted. Our allies’ political orientation, democratic socialism, is in contrast to our country’s “cowboy mentality” which results from our individualistic survival mode. Our President had aimed at remaking our image, but he has missed the distinction between the American and European approaches: Our system was designed specifically to limit change while the Parliamentary system encourages it. Our Constitution requires a 2/3 vote of Congress and ¾ vote of the states for an amendment. Our society may evolve. Although our Constitution may be changed, it is not “evolving document”, otherwise it cannot serve as a contract between the people and the government it created.
History textbooks often neglect the religious and social imperatives underlying the “manifest destiny” dogma. Students are rarely taught that “manifest destiny” was the moral compass for westward expansion of the nation during the 1820 through 1860’s. Religious undertones accompanied this social imperative that Presidents such as Jackson and Polk asserted. However, with the removal of religion from curricula, this expression of American exceptionalism is eliminated. Xenophobia and persecution of the Native Americans become the causes. Arguing over the amount of government rather than the effectiveness of programs cedes the point to progressives. Our founders were theists, but ensured that our government would not become a theocracy through the First Amendment. Yet, they did not intend to eliminate religion from our lives, as this is among our most precious freedoms. While liberals frequently use humanistic terminology through their concern for society, they are principally incremental socialists.
President Obama sees the Constitution as a “negative limitation” of the government. He understands the founders attempt to limit central power against the natural instinct of politicians to expand power. The President wants the Constitution to be a set a “positive affirmations” empowering the government to correct societal ills. This is socialism. However, since history lessons focus upon dates, places and names, rather than upon enduring lessons of humanity and human nature, we are ill prepared to recognize this conclusion. We become prey to politicians who want to remake this country without transparency. Historians may point to our country’s failures, but ours is an enduring attempt at freedoms. Governmental growth has not eliminated poverty, ignorance, sickness or decay of our infrastructure. Cuba, the former Soviet Union, France, and Greece give us a glimpse of our future if we continue on this path.
Great movements require social imperatives to unite populations and endure difficult times. This was the purpose of arguing against “taxation without representation” during the American Revolution. President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation gave purpose to Northern soldiers during the American Civil War. Some argue that religion serves the same purpose: to encourage humans to behave in a manner not consistent with their nature. The United States is a great movement of people toward unification without loss of individualism. Although the nation is evolutionary, our core document, the Constitution is not. Many governmental programs are inefficient and burdensome. While they originate as well intentioned efforts, few citizens can identify positives when describing the government agencies they must negotiate. Overreaching and expansion of government has resulted in budgetary deficits which threaten our greatest imperative, our survival. We must not surrender to politicians who do not respect our founding principles.
Today we are told that our politics are divisive. This has been the norm. Few are aware that our first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, was killed by President Jefferson’s Vice President, Aaron Burr in a duel. President Washington assembled the greatest Cabinet. Yet two friends, Adams and Jefferson became bitter enemies resulting in the end of the Federalists and the creation of the Democratic-Republicans. The vitriol at that time exceeded the present rhetoric. While Jefferson opposed the expansion of federal power in the Alien and Sedition Act of 1798, he then expanded the Presidential power with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. This expansion of power stands in sharp contrast to President Washington. Few would expect pleasantries between the warring parties during the Civil War. The press, with its own political prejudices, will not support reduction of the government in its reporting. We can hope that the incoming Congress heeds this lesson.
Socialists seek government expansion. President Obama desire to “redistribute the wealth” ignores the founder’s intent. The founders desired a system of equal opportunity, rather than equal outcome. Several changes to the Constitution were necessary to accomplish equitable opportunity. First, citizenship was conferred on former slaves after the Civil War; then women were given the right to vote. Our founders were successful white males who did not seek economic equality. They thought this was not possible. They created a system that allows creative persons to flourish. The incoming Congress must not stifle this creativity and should reverse impediments already in place.
Congress cannot solve all societal ills and generally hinders creative people. The marketplace of ideas and business hold the best hope for our economic recovery. Restraining federal growth and influence is necessary. Entrenched people will fight this move aggressively as their special interests are threatened. Our long-term debt and obligations threaten our future wealth and economic vitality. This malaise can end only if the expansion of government is curtailed. We wish these leaders well and recognize the uphill battle that they face.

The Lack of Civility Begins at the Top, But Taps into Ignorance and Resentment from the Bottom

This article was originally written in Sept. 2012 following the Democratic National Convention.

The Republican Convention was an attempt to humanize Governor Mitt Romney.  The Democrats and their surrogates have spent the past three months portraying Romney as a heartless businessman who does not care about average people.  After all, his persona is generally stiff and he is not charismatic on the television screen.  On the contrary, this is Obama’s greatest asset.  Are we voting for a successful manager or a celebrity?   This conundrum results from our poor education in social studies and civics.  Few students understand that our Constitution is a document generated by citizens limiting the powers of the federal government.  This contract between the people and the government is unique in the history of mankind as Mark Levin has shown.  Our President has remarked that he wants to fundamentally change that relationship.

Mark Levine cited the declining viewership numbers for the Republican Convention as a curious problem.  He asked why half the audience tuned into the Convention this year versus 2008.  Clearly, the press coverage has helped drive up Romney’s negatives.  The lack of enthusiasm for Romney by many conservatives has added to this decline in interest, but can’t explain it thoroughly.  The general distaste for things political is more aptly due to the many disappointments that our leaders have given us.  It is no wonder that politicians that provide new services are rewarded by re-election.  The electorate lacks the background to challenge the cost or unintended consequences.  The press selectively gives the daily news and analysis knowing that the ignorance of the public is their greatest weapon in shaping national opinion.  Much of the coverage implied that the Republicans lied during their speeches. 

A perusal of most American history textbooks from high school curricula portray the industrialists of the early 1900’s as robber barons who enriched themselves at the expense of ordinary people.  Many college texts give capitalism a negative implication.  The great wealth that results from individual efforts is rarely the model that is encouraged.  One must attend a graduate business school to study any encouragement of the entrepreneurial spirit.  Yet, most MBA programs are geared toward larger corporations, rather than small businesses. The left plays into this narrative which is underlined by Marxist theories.

The President requested that our politics be elevated while appearing in Tucson, Arizona after the shootings that killed several and wounded Representative Gabby Giffords.  Yet each day brings a reduction in the level of discourse.  This decline reflects an animosity by the President’s supporters toward traditional families, a dislike of capitalism, a challenge to individual liberty in favor of statism, and a desire to enact programs despite our ability to manage the cost.  The administration deflects from the poor state of the economy, while the opposition consistently attacks the President.   The most disturbing character of our leadership is that our President condones the animus.  The President questioned the efforts of business leaders when he said they did not build it without government support.  Obama said that the private sector was doing well.  The President’s comments demonstrate a skewed understanding of economics and enterprise which results from the biases of academia.   Commentators missed the irony that President Clinton reached out to Republicans to enact legislation that benefited the nation, unlike President Obama.

We are given a daily dose of inflammatory rhetoric from the campaigns.  Most have seen the Super PAC ads showing a like Ryan look-a-like throwing an elderly lady off a cliff.  Recently the First Lady produced an ad implying the Romney’s election would result in more cancer deaths.  The Vice President gave a speech now repeated for several days in which he discussed Romney’s plan to remove “the chains from Wall Street.  But they are going to put ya’ll back in chains.”  This, said to a predominately black audience, has racial undertones.

Hyperbole and dishonesty appears to be an often used tactic.  The California Democratic Chair, John Burton, likened the Republicans to Goebbels from the Nazi era.  They demonize Romney and Ryan, using words such as “extreme”, “hateful”, and “evil” which is meant to make them unacceptable.  Clearly, the administration’s record must be presented as interest group (such as the UAW) successes, rather than for the nation as a whole.  At the Democratic National Convention film from the campaign between the deceased Senator Kennedy and Mitt Romney was used to attack Romney.  Where is the decency in this approach?  Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC Chair, recently stated that Israeli Ambassador Oren had accused the Republicans of being a threat to Israel which was untrue.  The fight over the platform language concerning the use of the term “God” and Jerusalem as the capital of Israel demonstrates the lack of candor which is now commonplace in politics.  The press and politicians often play on the ignorance of this minutia.

The Republicans have a glaring problem which can be seen from the podium.  They advocate success and relate their stories of upward mobility in the United States.  The vast majority of Americans has not tasted this success and has no understanding of how to accomplish it.  This is the rub:  the Democrats have used class warfare because it speaks to the resentment of the majority of people.  They view Mitt Romney’s success as a negative:  he is too rich to understand normal people and is aloof and detached.  After listening to the tales of Romney’s personal commitment to families during difficult times, could anyone continue to feel that he is the Ebenezer Scrooge of Dickens tales?  But the liberals will still call for his tax returns and claim he evaded taxes in the Cayman Islands.  Stephanie Cutter continues in her position after remarking that Romney committed a felony.  The President could end this tone instantly.

After the Republican Convention, it is clear that Romney has given women a place at the table.   Now liberals will question their policies:  Do they pay equal amounts for the same work?  Will they give women full contraceptive and reproductive rights without any additional costs?  Will the gender gap close after these conventions?  The Democrats will portray the opposition as anti-female.  Sandra Fluke’s speech at the DNC was inflammatory.  Yet the Democrats complain that the speeches at the RNC were a personal attack.  Perhaps the divide is too great to bridge.  However, the class warfare employed by Elizabeth Warren conflicts with Michelle Obama’s statement that her husband does not view people differently.  The conflict between the parties deepens as the public appetite for details decreases since we cannot hold them accountable.  Our ignorance and envy of success may undermine any public discourse.  It certainly limits any chance for compromise.

Will The Re-Election Of President Obama Encourage More Violence in the Middle East?

This article was originally written during the earliest period of response by Israel to the rocket fire from Gaza in Nov. 2012.

 

During 2012 Hamas has fired over 800 missiles and mortars from the Gaza strip into Israel.  The recent uptick in firings has led to retaliatory strikes by Israel.  This resulted in the assassination of Hamas’ military leader Ahmed Jabari.  At least 450 rockets have been fired during the past three days.  Israel has called up 16,000 reservists for an anticipated ground war and possible incursion into Gaza.  Already 30 people have died in the hostilities.

 

The Prime Minister of Egypt, Hesham Kandil, visited Gaza on Friday with a hope of ending hostilities.  He has indicated that his country supports Hamas, a change from the past administration of Hosni Mubarak.  But, the violence continues.

 

The escalation was predictable.  Hamas leaders in the Gaza consistently test the leadership of the PLO and Mahmoud Abbas who controls the West Bank.  He is weak and has asked the U.N. to recognize his territory as a new nation.  That effort threatens his financial support from Israel and the U.S.  Another challenge to Palestinian unity comes from Tunisian based Farouck Kaddoumi, who called for a federation between the West Bank and Jordan.  In the Middle East the status quo is unacceptable and is exploited by hopeful challengers.

 

 Prime Minister Netanyahu has called for early elections and must be perceived as protecting his country.  Iran threatens Israel and continues to enrich uranium at a faster rate.  Such work can only be aimed at bomb production.  He has told the world that Iran will reach the red line at some time in the spring.  Does Netanyahu believe that Obama will help if he attacks the Iranian nuclear facilities?

 

The Palestinian attacks had to be answered by Israel.  Netanyahu has had a poor relationship with President Obama, though he is close friends with Governor Romney.  Obama has supported Israeli defense, but with restraint.  Netanyahu cannot expect Obama to have his back, which results in a more aggressive response.  So full war threats mount.

 

Israel has four Iron Dome missile batteries to protect the country.  Another battery is to be delivered soon.  Defense Minister Barack is seeking three more batteries.  Missile defenses have limitations:  They cannot be used when the rocket firings are too close.  They cannot hope to stop every attack.  They are reactive and not offensive.  They do not control destiny.  Therefore, a ground war is more likely.

 

The attacks on Israel have involved Tel Aviv and Jerusalem using Iranian rockets.  Iran encourages strife and turmoil through its terrorist surrogates.  Weapons abound and move throughout the region.   Thanks to the Libyan civil war efforts by the West to oust Kaddafi, sophisticated Western weapons are in the hands of Islamists.  These weapons have been smuggled to Hamas in the Gaza.  Iran uses surrogates to test Israeli defenses.  Will Hezbollah fire missiles from Lebanon and widen the war?

 

An old adage reminds us to “beware what you wish for”.  Democratization of the Middle East comes at a peril.  Islamists gain in the elections and oppose American policy. The President encouraged the Arab spring revolution which began in Tunisia.  Syria is engulfed in civil war.  Egypt has turned against America as the Muslim Brotherhood has seized control.  This was predictable as the Islamists are most organized.  Egypt receives about $2 billion per year from the U.S.  We have leverage, but Obama is loath to use it against Arab nations.  Peace is not in the offering.  The Obama foreign policy in the Middle East is under pressure. 

 

Some call for the President to engage in Mid East peace talks.  Until the Palestinians are willing to accept the existence of Israel, there can be no peace. This means the end of the “right of return”, which would lead to a Muslim majority in Israel.  Israel sought a partner in Abbas, but his influence dwindles.  He sought a seat at the UN, but was rebuffed.  America appears unengaged.  Foreign overtures by the U.S. are limited to the Afghanistan war.

 

Our influence in the Syrian crisis is limited since Russia is a continuing protectorate. Russia supports President Assad against the rebels.  Syria is also the strongest ally of Iran in the Arab world.  The hegemony continues since no Arab state is willing to engage Syria in battle.  America provided air power to assist the rebels in Libya.  However, this time the President is unwilling to do the same.  In Libya, he used air power at the behest of the Europeans; this was done without seeking Congressional support. Ironically, Libya was no longer an enemy of U.S.A. as Khadafy resumed relations with our nation after the second Iraq war began.

 

The Syrian civil war threatens to involve other nations.  Missiles from Syria have crossed into Turkey.  Will combatants decide to involve Israel in the Golan Heights and redirect the war?  The policy of leading from behind (as the administration described the Libyan effort) may allow Islamists in Syria to misjudge our resolve.  Our country provides funds to many of the players, but will this translate into influence?

 

As the hearings regarding the murder of four Americans at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th begin, some events become evident.  People will argue whether the President was aware of the deteriorating conditions in Libya.  There will be fights over his handling of the post-attack reaction.  Our Middle East enemies will note that he was unengaged, a sign of weakness.  Every void is an opportunity for aggressive action.

 

Our low profile in Libya left a small footprint.  The Ambassador requested more security, but the

Department of State denied a greater military presence.  This policy was naive and foolish.  Radical elements in the Middle East are always testing for weakness.  Moderation has never been a hallmark of strength in the area. 

 

Our departure from Iraq has not evolved into a peaceful condition there.  Bombings occur regularly and the extreme elements of the Sunni and Shiite communities vie for relevancy.  As we draw down in Afghanistan, more extreme elements of the Taliban will arise.  The administration has shown a desire to reduce aggressive rhetoric.  Will these efforts result in peace?  Can they keep us out of conflicts?  Or will we be an unwilling victim of hostilities for years?  In the Middle East, overtures for peace have often been confused for weakness.  Weakness in the Middle East invites conflict.

 

Projection of power requires financial strength and a solid economy.  The discussions to avoid the “fiscal cliff” will help maintain this stability.  Any solution that weakens our economy will threaten our military strength.  This may ultimately lead to more hostilities in the Middle East as the stabilizing influence provided by the U.S.A. shrinks.  President Obama’s budgetary policies do not offer sustained economic growth.  In the end, spending beyond ability was the ruin of the great military empires of the past and will lead to more wars.

The Two Political Sides Could Not Be More Different: The Socialist Left Versus The Capitalist Right

This was originally written in July 2011 as the Congress and the President agreed to raise the debt ceiling and put in place the sequestration that presently contributes to our fiscal cliff dilemma.

As the debate over the budget and the national debt rages, it would be illustrative to understand how different the opposing sides are. Liberals/progressives see the government as the solution to all big problems. The argument given by the liberal/progressive side is that in times of economic downturns the government must inject a stimulus to counter the effect of diminished employment. This is the essence of the Keynesian counter-cyclic theory produced during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Unfortunately, this misses the corollary part of the theory which states that during better times, the government should reduce spending. Therefore, though socialists often enlist Keynesian theory for their support, they miss that he was not a socialist and did not view government as an ever-growing entity. Keynes came to prominence after World War II when he warned against the onerous conditions imposed upon Germany by the Allies, which ultimately lead to the rise of power of Hitler and the Nazis. Few in the media remember that the Nazis were the Nationalist Socialist Party of Germany.
On the other hand, the conservatives/libertarians have developed their own dogma. Though they are closer to the essential Enlightenment era document which established our country, the Constitution, modern realities and Supreme Court rulings have complicated its observation. Most Americans would agree that they support the market principles of capitalism with government safeguards. Yet, conservatives, in the words of President Reagan, see the government as the problem. I would agree with this, but it limits our ability to resolve these issues. One can take Milton Freidman’s views to the extreme and seek individual freedom, at the expense of the national well-being. His “Capitalism and Freedom” sparked my rejection of socialism, which has been surreptitiously incorporated into the basic school curriculum over the past 100 years. However, we cannot undo every aspect of the entitlement culture that has resulted during this time-Social Security, Medicare, Anti-Trust legislation, government regulation of the environment, business, and social life, and the welfare state- because the general public is not ready to abandon all these programs.
Any deal that is reached by the two sides will not address the root problem-spending more than we can afford-while authorizing more debt. The national “AAA” bond rating may not be saved by these compromises. Divided government was the intent of our founders, but it is being used by the administration to continue spending beyond our means. The country must recognize that the only solution resides in growth of the economy in the private sector. If we taxed every one whose income exceeds $250,000 per year at a 100% rate, we only raise $900 billion per year at the expense of all the jobs they create. After all, have you ever gotten a job from a poor person? The only hope for our future is to encourage the private sector. The tentative plan reached on Sunday may not provide enough savings to satisfy the bond markets. (They wanted $4 trillion at Moody’s, while this plan is half that amount.) Of course in all this wrangling, it must be remembered that we are only discussing cuts in the rate of growth in spending that results from zero based budgeting with automatic increases.
The essential American cultural distinction from European nations which dates to our colonial period is the ability of our citizens to own land or property as a guaranteed right versus the grant of use that feudalism allowed previously. Socialists do not see this point as particularly American and do not value the final clause of the Fifth Amendment. This underlies their stark difference with the conservatives. This ownership right encourages entrepreneurial spirit and risk-taking that has created much of our national wealth.
Add this philosophical difference to the political difference and you can see a difficult compromise. The Democratic Party has managed coalitions of many different liberal groups (environmentalists, abortion rights advocates, civil rights activists), while the Republican Party is organized around many conservative social, religious, and financial issues. If the cuts are real, then the result will help our future. Unfortunately, the triggers might allow for tax increases or massive military cuts during a time of war. This is only the first salvo in the battle over spending. Our Representatives must keep up the fight even as they reach agreement on this issue.
The ideological difference between the Democrats and Republicans results in stalemate. Compromise is only possible when common ground is reached. The President and the Senate, controlled by the Democrats, see increased spending and increased taxation as the means to accomplish redistribution of income and wealth. The Republican House sees wealth, property, and income as an individual right under the Constitution. Demagoguery of these differences cannot close the gap, nor ensure any solution. It is only through honest negotiation that any compromise can be reached. Sadly, the gulf is too wide to accomplish this aim.

Why the Jewish Vote Swings Toward Obama

Many acquaintances ask why Jews support President Obama in light of his treatment of Israel? Most people that I am familiar with recognize my dedication to Israel’s survival. I am also an unabashed capitalist. I have served as my synagogue’s President and I am presently on the Executive Council of the Board of Trustees. I also serve on the Executive Board of the local Jewish Federation. Generally, Jews have managed as a group to earn in excess of the national median income of $50,000 per household. They have the largest percentage of wage earners making in excess of $100,000. Some would expect the Jewish population to be overwhelmingly pro-business and Republican in party affiliation. However, this is not the case. Why does this incongruity exist?

During the long history of the Jewish people many disruptions have devastated their communities and created historic memories that are indelibly etched into the genetic persona of the present day members. In America the lack of prejudice and assimilation of population into the greater community has resulted in the modern voting trends. Most Jews are registered Democrats who tend to vote with the more liberal candidates. During the great migration (2-2.5,000,000) of Jews at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century most Jews migrated from Eastern Europe (known as Russian, Slavic, or Polish Jewish migration). They brought with them their collective experiences from their ancestors. In this case, the Russian tsars used the Jewish population as scapegoats for the inequities in Russian society. Feudalism ended in the Russian and Polish territories later than in the Western European countries. This left the peasants poor and without any sense of a financial future. Allowing pogroms (government sanctioned attacks) by disenfranchised Russian peasants with the approval of the Russian Orthodox Church kept the smoldering animosities under tap. Eventually this anger was expressed through the Russian revolution and communist takeover of society. Additionally, the early communist leaders encouraged support and participation by Jewish rebels. As with the purging of Leo Trotsky, eventually ancient animosities arose and the Jewish leadership was thrust to the side. Therefore, the socialist memories are those that resonate with positive undertones for American Jews.

As these poor refugees arrived at Ellis Island they sought jobs in lower Manhattan ghettos where they found jobs in the garment industry. These factories treated young girls and women badly. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire helped lead to unionization of the industry. Jews participated in this endeavor and rose to the leadership. In the earliest part of the 20th century this became a collective memory. It continued through the unionization of the teachers union in New York City. As Jews migrated to other parts of the country, they took this antipathy toward management with them. This trend would continue throughout the century with Jews supporting the civil rights movement as it moved toward helping to give African Americans greater equality in our nation. This bond between two formerly slave communities (Jews during the Biblical period in Egypt and Blacks until only 150 years ago in these United States) represents a shared experience of inequity. Though most Americans associate Jews with retail businesses, commerce and banking as the owners, this represents the minority of the population. As educational opportunities have afforded Jews professional (in accounting, law, medicine, dentistry teaching, journalism, entertainment, and management) careers, they have in large numbers gravitated away from traditional retail commercial ventures. Liberal or progressive tendencies have been cultural heritage from this experience. Many of the brain trust supporters of FDR were Jews with strong socialist leanings. Such motivated people have risen to higher positions in politics in both parties, but the press has emphasized those within the Democratic Party.

The earliest Jewish immigrants were Spanish or Portuguese Jews escaping religious persecution in Europe during the 1600’s and 1700’s. They numbered only 2500 until the 1700’s and reached 14,000 by 1800’s. Jewish immigration during the mid 18th century came from Western Europe, generally German speaking, which brought the number to about 250,000. These, predominately educated immigrants, escaped the discrimination and war torn countries, so they could leave the schtetls (or walled ghettos). They remembered that the offer of citizenship once came from Napoleon’s proclamations in the early 1800’s, but was halted with the defeat of his revolution. Yet, in France, many reforms remained despite the Restoration. Until the 1800’s most countries forbid Jews from ownership of property. Hence, commerce and banking were among the few careers opened to them. These Jews also created Reform Judaism in Germany as a way of giving the ancient religion a more modern feel and blending into the existing European culture. This religious liberalism helps underlie the willing acceptance of progressive ideology. Today in modern American synagogues, “social justice” underscores many programs. Most Jews support abortion, though orthodox Jews only permit this procedure to save the life of the mother. In 1921-24 immigration laws were changed and by the Great Depression migration of Jews was severely restricted. In the 1970’s thanks to the efforts of Democratic Senator Jackson, many Soviet Jews were allowed to immigrate into our country.

Jews clearly care about Israel. However, this is not their primary affiliation. Further, they have willingly allowed ideology to blur their vision regarding political treatment of Israel’s future. This can be seen as the development of lobbying efforts on behalf of Israel. AIPAC, a traditional entity, has been considered too bellicose and conservative by many liberal Jews. As a result, J Street was created to offer a more peaceful alternative viewpoint. The conflict is significant since they often disagree on issues related to the Palestinians and Islam. In 1968, the Six Day Way was seen as an effort for survival. However, complacency has resulted in a lessened fear for Israel’s survival. Today, most American Jews see Iran as a threat, but don’t expect the mullahs to attack a militarily strong Israeli. This may be foolishness.

In 2009, Norman Podhoretz tried to answer the question, “Why Are Jews Liberals” in his book. He concluded that liberalism does not flow from admonitions of the prophets to care for the community, much as others argued. Progressives have been willing to conflate these ideas, but this is a simplistic analysis. The Me’ah program created by the Hebrew College of Boston (which I attended), detailed the four phases of Jewish history: Biblical or ancient Israelite religion (with redemption provided through a sacrificial Temple) , Rabbinic or Talmudic Judaism (which created the present prayer based religion with redemption through “acts of loving-kindness”), Medieval (with the establishment of legal restraints), and modern era (with new freedoms and the restoration of Israel by non-religious Jews). The complexity of the question as to why Jews are liberal is matched by the conundrum as to how they survived two millennia of Diaspora (loss of homeland), discrimination, and many battles for survival. The most powerful empire two thousand years ago (Rome) destroyed Jerusalem (in 70 CE) but did not survive the Visigoth invasions of the 5th century. No doubt the Jewish vote for Obama which was 78% in 2008 will be lower this year. The principal cause may be the poor state of the economy and not the future of Israel.

A Plea to Speaker John Boehner and the House Republicans to Avoid the Fiscal Cliff Trap

The President and his advisors have set a trap for the House Republicans. The President plans to ensnare them into voting for greater federal spending and wealth redistribution in return for extending the Bush era tax cuts. Republicans have already agreed to raise taxes on the upper 2% of income earners. The Speaker, at great political risk, acquiesced to the President’s original proposal to raise taxes about $800 billion over ten years on the wealthiest Americans. As a result, the fight is over the method: rate increases or closing loopholes. This tax increase of $80 billion per year cannot close the budget deficit which exceeds $1 trillion annually.

The President sent Secretary Geithner up to Capitol Hill to outline the administration plan. Senator McConnell broke out in laughter after hearing the White House plan; it is clear that the President is not offering a “balanced deal”. Three weeks ago, the President offered a similar proposal: An increase in taxes of $1.6 trillion over ten years, more stimulus spending for several years, a permanent debt ceiling increase, and unspecified and non-guaranteed cuts to entitlements amounting to $400 billion (which is less than the increase in spending). With time eroding before the January deadline, the President’s open gambit is an endgame.

The President hopes to split the Republicans, which has happened. He is not going to offer real compromise. Real spending cuts have never been his aim. Four years ago he told them that “elections have consequences” while meeting at the White House over plans for health care reform. Now Representative Nancy Pelosi has reaffirmed this admonition. Tax and spend politics has allowed Democrats to secure scores of interest group voters since the FDR days.

Some pundits advocate that the Republicans walk away and let the nation go over the fiscal cliff. Original concepts of this cliff included automatic tax increases and federal spending cuts resulting from the 2011 sequester agreement. Fears abound that this would put the country into recession and some advocate more intensive talks. Talks can occur when both parties are genuinely interested in compromise. Sadly, this is not the case.

Unemployment is sure to increase whether we go over the cliff or not. New taxes in Obama Care and a restoration of the total employee withholding for FICA payroll taxes (an increase of 2%) are coming. Layoffs and reductions in working hours resulting from businesses’ attempts to reduce overhead under requirements of Obama Care will reduce economic growth. The President has successfully decoupled tax increases from spending cuts in the electorate’s perception of the fiscal cliff. The House leadership can continue this decoupling since time and leverage are minimal.

A lesson can be gleaned from President Reagan when he refused to end defensive missile systems while meeting with Gorbachev at Reykjavik in 1986. Eventually Gorbachev agreed to missile reductions but not Reagan’s entire proposal to eliminate nuclear weapons. A compromise should not violate strong principles. The Speaker should not agree to any increase in spending that his caucus opposes. He can offer to extend the tax cuts for the 98% and negotiate the details of the increase. The President will blame the Republicans for any future problems regardless of agreement. After January 1, 2013 there is no guarantee that he will agree to extend the Bush tax cuts for anyone.

When the Bush era tax cuts expire, the tax rates instituted by President Clinton take effect. During the campaign Obama said that he wanted to hearken back to those days. He needs more revenue to close the deficit and keep Obama Care from devastating the gap further. The middle class will shrink either by loss of income or by higher taxes. The Republicans have no choice but to reduce taxes on the 98%, since he will not sign a bill he opposes. This will result in some reduction for the wealthiest since the lower brackets will be taxed at a reduced rate. If they walk away, then all rates increase giving the President more revenue, harming greater numbers of citizens.

However, the President intends much more: He wants to remake the national Democratic coalition for several generations. He has forged an alliance between unions, public sector workers, young unmarried women, minority ethnic groups, and younger voters through targeted government spending programs. He will endeavor to increase the numbers of dependent persons. He wants to transfer wealth from the producers to the indigent. Already some on the left are calling for wealth redistribution during his second term. Saul Alinsky, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels would be proud.

Speaker Boehner can take a page from Speaker Tip O’Neill who stalled legislation that would help President Reagan. The next four years are going to be a political holding pattern. The economy will be flat during the period as taxes increase and many companies dump their health insurance plans. Employers will convert full-time employees to part-time as a way of avoiding the rules of Obama Care.

Boehner has a chance to forge a new coalition for the Republicans. Emphasis should be on the debt reduction for the next generation, which is an opening with youthful voters. Bankruptcy of the Medicare and Social Security systems is a consequence of underfunding and excessive spending. Blame can be laid at the President’s feet as he has spent these years creating a new health care system instead of repairing the existing ones. The rhetoric should be to “save” these programs.

The other aspect of the fiscal cliff is the spending issue. The agreement of 2011 to raise the debt ceiling has resulted in an automatic sequester of domestic and military spending amounting to over $1 trillion over ten years. The Republicans fear devastation to the military preparedness when additional $500 billion cuts delay weapon systems and deployment of forces. The President used this approach to guarantee cuts to the military that the Republicans would never knowingly approve. They fell into the trap he set in 2011. They cannot compound the insult with another mistake. Instead, use this opportunity to reorganize the Pentagon and reduce the numbers of civilian and uniformed bureaucracy, creating a leaner and more nimble planning structure. The Congressional power over the purse must be utilized to maintain the most effect force projection.

Other entitlement programs such as Medicaid, Food Stamps, and Aid to Dependent Families are safety nets. However, the constituency groups that support these programs generally vote for Democrats. The House should work to block grant these programs to the states depriving them of federal bureaucracy and cutting into their interest groups. This will give greater flexibility and reduce costs.

The Republicans can pass small pieces of legislation that improve the situation. If the Senate under Harry Reid’s leadership rejects these efforts, then continuing resolutions might include these changes. Continuing resolutions should be at 2008 levels, not present ones. The Senate has not passed a budget in three years to allow the President’s 2009 stimulus spending to continue unabated.

Speaker Boehner has an opportunity to expand the Republican coalition through programs aimed at specific interest groups as Democrats have done. These include saving necessary programs and cutting wasteful ones such as the Rural Electrification Program. Small ball is the approach to take when leverage is poor but offensive action is warranted.

Last year I wrote that the divided government offers few good choices. The media supports the President. The public voted for this division. During the past two years stalemate with the House opposing the President’s initiatives resulted in continuation in the 2012 elections. The Republicans can moderate, but this will lead to their defeat. Their supporters want to stall progressivism. It was the intent of the Constitutional framers that competition between the federalist parties would restrict growth of governmental power. This is how Madison, Jay and Hamilton envisioned the process.