The Arrow

There are no answers; only choices.

Archive for the ‘American Politics’ Category

Proper Treatment of Terrorists

Posted by thearrow on October 26, 2011

And the shop’s pitch:

I didn’t post a picture with the Sarah Palin toilet paper because, as much as I don’t like her (or any other Republican for that matter),  she’s not a terrorist.

But I sure hope they make some Gaddafi toilet paper soon!

Posted in American Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Blame Bush for the Deficit

Posted by thearrow on July 29, 2011

A very illuminating graph and two punchy paragraphs that explain how the United States got in the hole it is right now. Which Republicans are happy to dig further into. While blaming Obama.

And dragging all of us down with them by not approving the damn debt ceiling increase. If U.S. debt is downgraded, all our personal debts will be and, as a result, we’ll pay higher interest rates — on private student loans (of which I have a hefty one that I’m paying through my nose), credit cards, mortgages, car loans, everything.

From The New York Times :

And as explained by Ezra Klein:

“What’s also important, but not evident, on this chart is that Obama’s major expenses were temporary — the stimulus is over now — while Bush’s were, effectively, recurring. The Bush tax cuts didn’t just lower revenue for 10 years. It’s clear now that they lowered it indefinitely, which means this chart is understating their true cost. Similarly, the Medicare drug benefit is costing money on perpetuity, not just for two or three years. And Boehner, Ryan and others voted for these laws and, in some cases, helped to craft and pass them.

To relate this specifically to the debt-ceiling debate, we’re not raising the debt ceiling because of the new policies passed in the past two years. We’re raising the debt ceiling because of the accumulated effect of policies passed in recent decades, many of them under Republicans. It’s convenient for whichever side isn’t in power, or wasn’t recently in power, to blame the debt ceiling on the other party. But it isn’t true.”

Posted in American hypocrisy, American Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Team America Killed Osama

Posted by thearrow on May 2, 2011

F**k yeah!

When reading how “two dozen SEALs in night-vision goggles dropped into the high-walled compound in Pakistan by sliding down ropes from Chinook helicopters in the overnight raid,” the first thing that came to my mind was the theme song from Team America, World Police.

And the slogan, “Putting the ‘F’ Back in Freedom.” I couldn’t have said it better myself 🙂

Posted in American Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

To All Abortion Foes Out There

Posted by thearrow on April 9, 2011

This past week, Republicans and Democrats have been in an epic clash over… abortion. Funding for the entire government of the United States hang on the thread of severe spending cuts that were supposed to also defund Planned Parenthood, a leading sexual and reproductive health care provider and advocate, because it also provides abortions, even if no federal dollars pay for those. The Republicans’ argument, strongly supported by the fundamentalist, parochial,  and overall retrograde Tea Partiers, was that any funding for Planned Parenthood would indirectly support its provision of abortions.

The government funding crisis was averted literally two hours before the government was supposed to shut down and Planned Parenthood retained its funding.

You can now see that abortion, my friends, is a major no-no in the Provincial States of America. Even if the right to have one is written into law, social conservatives are working hard at making sure it’s not accessible. It’s the least they can do since they haven’t been able to revert Roe v. Wade.

More recently, “28 states were considering or had already passed” laws banning the provision of abortion by health plans participating in healthcare exchanges to be set up by 2014 to cover low-income people. As usual, the poor get f***ed over. If you’re lucky to have employer-sponsored health insurance, you can get all the abortions you want. You think this kind of insurance is not supported by taxpayer dollars? Think again. Health care insurance provided by employers is a benefit that is not taxed at all. So the federal government doesn’t get any revenue from your benefit, like it does from your wages. Moreover, employers write it off as a business expense.

In some places, Planned Parenthood is the only provider of reproductive health services for low-income women (many without health insurance), helping them get much-needed breast cancer screenings, birth control, testing and treatment for STDs, etc.  Social conservatives were absolutely fine with them not getting anything at all. This would bring those women in a situation not much different from that of Romanian women  during Ceausescu’s regime, when both birth control and abortions were illegal.

Which brings me to my final statement:

If I could, I would force any anti-abortion person in this world to watch 4 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days, a movie about what women had to go through to get an abortion in the insane times of Ceausescu (sometimes much worse than that depicted in the movie). And ask themselves if that’s what they want for their daughters, sisters, and mothers.

Posted in American culture, American Politics | Tagged: , , | 2 Comments »

They Shoot Politicians, Don’t They?

Posted by thearrow on January 10, 2011

By now everyone who listened to the news knows that Arizona Democratic Representative Gabrielle Gifford was shot in the head at a public meeting in an assassination attempt by a mentally unstable guy who had a semi-automatic weapon.

As a European, the simple fact that people can possess guns and that their right to do so is written in the Constitution was something that took some time to get used to. From my limited understanding, people want to be able to defend themselves and hunt. I get that hunting is a big thing in rural parts of America and that, if the right to bear arms is in the Constitution, it must be a huge deal.

What I don’t understand is how a mentally ill person can possess guns legally. Why is it legal to bear concealed weapons? Why is it legal to own semi-automatic weapons? All these just boggle the mind while at the same time scaring the sh*t out of me. I’ve never even seen a real gun in my life (and have no desire for it), and yet I have to consider the possibility that I could be robbed at gun point or that some day a lunatic can walk into my building and start a rampage.

Also, I can’t help but wonder how Sharron Angle, the 2010 Republican nominee for the U.S. senate seat in Nevada, is sleeping these days, after she said during her campaign that people should take “Second-amendment remedies” against the government. As in, use guns to resolve their grievances with it.

And how Sarah Palin is sleeping after having put a map on her Facebook page with shooting targets over the districts of senators and representatives that had voted for the health care reform bill. One of those targets was on Rep. Gifford’s district. A Palin aide defended this after what happened on Sunday.

Can Michelle Bachmann, a Minnesota Rep., look Gifford’s family in the eye and repeat that she wants people “armed and dangerous“?

And I’d also like to know how the National Rifle Association, one of the most powerful lobbies in the country, really feels about this, apart from the otherwise sensible statement they put up on their website (which is really just PR). They’re the ones who advocate for these extremely lax gun laws and fiercely against gun controls. Deep in their hearts, can they feel no responsibility for this?

Yes, the gunman was completely disturbed and there are no clear connections between these examples of hateful rhetoric and his actions, but it’s hard to dismiss the role of right-wing politicians and talking heads in creating an atmosphere conducive to such a disaster. It’s rare that these dots can be connected very directly or obviously but the existence of a loose connection is not a stretch of imagination. It all makes me think of this quote of unknown source but great wisdom:

“Watch your thoughts, for they become words.
Watch your words, for they become actions.
Watch your actions, for they become habits.
Watch your habits, for they become character.
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”

It’s also impossible not to notice that there’s something rotten in Arizona, which has been in the news for some very disturbing pieces of state legislation, from a very anti-immigrant (read anti-Hispanic, racial-profiling) law giving state and local police the right to check people’s legal status if they are stopped for other reasons, to, more recently, denying people on Medicaid (the health program for the poor) life-saving transplants for the sake of budget cuts. At least one patient has already died as a result of this.

Here’s a good, succinct overview of the outlandish and downright mind-boggling things happening there:
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/10/us/10arizona.html.

And if you thought that this is it, you might want to read a Time magazine piece on U.S. private militias training just in case Islamists or some other enemy take over the country. Or in case President Obama and the federal government go too far, in their view (which might mean just giving health insurance to at least some of the 50 million people lacking it).

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2022516,00.html

I’m telling you, this country still feels like it’s the Wild Wild West.

Posted in American culture, American Politics | Tagged: | 4 Comments »

How I Fixed America’s Budget Deficit

Posted by thearrow on December 3, 2010

The New York Times‘ website has a very nifty tool that lets you choose what you want to cut or what taxes you want to raise:

Budget Puzzle: You Fix the Budget
“Today, you’re in charge of the nation’s finances. Some of your options have more short-term savings and some have more long-term savings. When you have closed the budget gaps for both 2015 and 2030, you are done. Make your own plan, then share it online.”

Which is exactly what I’m doing below:

Eliminate farm subsidies. Of course I was going to choose this since big agribusiness is profiting from it. As in, they’re probably a billion-dollar industry AND they are subsidized by the federal government at the same time. A government intervention Republicans like while thinking the health care reform is socialized medicine and not getting a brain short because of the contradiction. How crazy is that?

– Cut pay of civilian federal workers by 5%. I figured it’s less painful to have this across-the-board cut rather than layoffs. We have enough unemployment already.

– Cut 250,000 government contractors. A drop in the bucket.

Reduce military to pre-Iraq War size and further reduce troops in Asia and Europe. We’ve got too much military spending anyway.

Cancel or delay some weapons programs. If you go to the online tool, you’ll see that those weapons would be replaced with others just as effective but cheaper, so, for Republicans out there, I’m not against America defending itself.

– Reduce noncombat military compensation and overhead. This “would change health-care plan for veterans who had not been wounded in battle” and “reduce the length and frequency of combat tours.” What’s not to like?

Reduce the number of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to 30,000 by 2013. Let’s face it, however you want to call what’s going on at least in Afghanistan, is not winnable with troops. It will probably take generations of international development to see the slightest changes and even then I’m not optimistic.

– Enact medical malpractice reform. This is one thing I actually agree with Republicans about. “Many doctors believe so-called defensive medicine – ordering tests and procedures to avoid lawsuits – is a major reason health costs are so high. This option would begin to reduce the chances of large malpractice verdicts, and supporters believe, also reduce rising medical costs.” Also, it’s unacceptable to have malpractice insurance costs for life-saving specialties, like ob-gyn or pediatrics, so high that it might prevent doctors from going into those fields. I would use some of those savings to increase pay for primary care physicians, though, which fewer and fewer medical students choose because it doesn’t pay well enough for them to repay their enormous student loans. What a vicious circle.

– Reduce the tax break for employer-provided health insurance. Let me say I have GREAT health insurance coverage and I wouldn’t mind paying taxes on it. Health insurance is a non-taxable benefit now and it benefits mostly the middle-class. I know the middle-class has been seriously battered by the recession, but they are the people who have jobs that offer this because their employers are large enough. Not to mention that employers write this cost off as a business expense (some of the terms I’m using might not be very accurate but you get the idea). Well, people in low-paying jobs usually don’t have ANY health insurance (or paid leave, for that matter) or have something completely inadequate that doesn’t help in case of catastrophic health problems (cancer, anyone?). So, not only they’re paid crap for hard jobs, but they don’t get the benefits higher-paid employees do. And we wonder why there’s so much poverty and 50 million uninsured people in America.

– Cap Medicare growth starting in 2013. Medicare is universal health insurance for those 65 and over. Something nobody else gets here. Some will say that the poor get Medicaid, but the reimbursement rates for Medicaid are much lower than for Medicare, and therefore fewer doctors are willing to accept poor people as their patients. The elephant in this budget are ever-increasing health care costs, a.k.a Medicare. Something has to be done to get them under control. According to NYT, “This option would cap the Medicare growth at G.D.P. growth plus 1 percentage point, starting in 2013. Among other things, this would crack down on many hospitals and doctors with the highest costs.” I’m not against the elderly, I’m against excessive costs. This measure alone would save $562 billion by 2030.

– Reduce Social Security benefits for those with high incomes. I don’t think I need to say why rich people don’t really need high pensions, something they don’t rely on for their retirement anyway.

– Return the estate tax to Clinton-era levels. For my friends outside the U.S., this is the tax on inheritance. I think a $1 million exemption from this is more than enough.

– Return investment-gains rates to Clinton-era levels. Low-income people would be taxes less than the rest on capital gains, which I like. Dividends are not exactly like wages (for which you work your ass off), so they should be taxed at the same rate as the latter. One reason we’ve seen 20% of the country’s income go to the top 1% of earners (otherwise known as the growing income inequality) is that those people don’t draw much from salaries; they have investments taxed very low. Enough of that.

– Allow expiration of Bush tax cuts for income above $250,000 a year. Do I need to explain why? Because it would add $700 billion to the deficit, that’s why. Rich people don’t need more money than they’ve already amassed.

– Payroll tax: Subject some incomes above $106,000 to tax. Payroll tax is what supports Social Security and Medicare but only part of the salary is taxed for the former.

And, believe it or not, I didn’t event need to close tax loopholes!

Here is why I DIDN’T choose some of the other options:

– Cut foreign aid in half. Not when most people on Earth can barely feed themselves.

– Eliminate earmarks. A drop in the bucket. I’d rather not bother with it.

– Other cuts to the federal government. Nope. Not when it comes to the chronically underfunded National Park Service or the Smithsonian. No way.

– Cut aid to states by 5 percent. You’ve got to be kidding me. Not in this economy, when they had to fire teachers and firefighters because of dismal revenues and deep budget cuts.

– Reduce Navy and Air Force fleets. I don’t think those weigh that heavy on the budget and, in a world full of threats, they should probably be left alone.

– Increase Medicare eligibility age to 68 or 70. You can’t be serious. People 55 and over who have lost their jobs, and therefore their health insurance, are scrambling to have their health care needs met until they reach 65.

– Raise the Social Security retirement age to 68 or 70. And soon you’ll have to work from your grave, right? Oh, wait. You can’t really come back from there. The most I would do would be to raise the early retirement age to maybe 65 instead of 62, like it is right now, but not without some serious protection for low-income and disabled people. Some people can work into their 70s, others have too many health issues to be able to do it.

– Tighten eligibility for disability. Yes. Let’s hit the crippled, I say. Should be fun.

– National sales tax. A really stupid idea. I know it’s proposed by economists I (a non-economist) deeply respect, but I know from my Romanian experience how it can wreak havoc on a family’s budget. I wish them to pay 24% on all their purchases–which is what VAT is now in Romania–and tell me how they feel about it. Or, better, they should give me those 24%.

What I didn’t need to choose because I’ve already solved them problem but I would like to add anyway:

– Millionaire’s tax on income above $1 million. I believe $1 million should be enough to make you comfortable. Anything beyond that cannot be comprehended by the human mind and could probably feed, clothe, educate, etc. a lot of poor people and save their lives in the process.

– Reduce mortgage deduction and others for high-income households. Being able to deduct your mortgage interest from your taxable income is probably a big help for middle-class families. When you get a second home, though, that shouldn’t come at the expense of lost revenue. Or when you get a McMansion. I would both reduce it for high-income people AND cap it at some reasonable level.

– Carbon tax. By all means, yes! We need to feel the direct effect of our global-warming activities, otherwise we’ll never be inclined to switch to cleaner options. The tax should fund R&D for clean energy, of course.

So this was today’s deficit reduction lesson, kids.

Posted in American Politics | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

I Changed My Mind about WikiLeaks

Posted by thearrow on December 2, 2010

It’s actually been quite refreshing to read the candid (and jaw-dropping) evaluation of different countries or leaders around the world in The New York Times these days.

Like this one, just posted, about Afghanistan,
Cables Describe Scale of Afghan Corruption as Overwhelming.

Or this other one, about Russia,
Below Surface, U.S. Has Dim View of Putin and Russia.

I don’t know much about Afghanistan, but Russia’s portrayal strikes me as quite accurate and, sadly, not at all surprising. It’s Romania’s corruption at a much larger scale, where, as the article says, “the government effectively [is] the mafia.”

Now I wish Assange had leaked something about Romania, too. If the only result of this is that people will have a better idea of how widespread corruption is in these countries and something, however small, will change for the better, it was worth it. Of course, I welcome leaks about corruption in America, too. Or anywhere else for that matter. It’s a rotten cancer that requires constant effort to be stamped on, rooted out, or destroyed in whatever manner possible.

We definitely need to hear the truth more often. I still think Brooks was right when he said “conversation is damaged by exposure,” but maybe that’s exactly what we need.

Posted in American Politics | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »