Tag Archives: economy

Perspective vs. Experience: A Presidential Conversation


So I published a post titled A Lack of Perspective on Monday about why I believe that Mitt Romney shouldn’t be president because he can’t understand what it’s like to be poor. That’s dumbing it down a bit, but that’s the general premise.

In response, one of my favorite Facebook critics, Mark Ashley*, asked me whether I really believed that someone had to be poor to understand what poverty is and stated that a person’s actual policies show a lot more about a politician than their life experiences.

I’ll restate his argument here:

Had this been written in 2004, it would have been a great argument against John Kerry. Of course, the alternative was Bush, who also came from wealth, but you have effectively disqualified the likes of JFK, FDR, and a lot of other presidents.

The idea generally that one ought to have been poor at one time to be a good political leader seems odd to me. How poor is poor? Does one’s family have to have begged at one time to qualify? Been on government assistance? Or is simply struggling to make ends meet enough? I’m not being facetious in asking these questions, and I am well acquainted with living below the poverty line. My expectation is that any person running for president would be long past poverty–nobody is interested in electing a person who has never been successful in life–and many up-from-the-bootstrap people are not particularly sympathetic to the poor either.

Ultimately, there are a lot of people who have been poor whom I’d not trust to run an office lottery pool, let alone the country, and there are a lot who have been rich about whom I’d say the same. Likewise, many who have been poor and who have never been poor have genuinely good perspectives on poverty and even sometimes good policy proposals. What matters more is how a person has processed those life experiences and what a person chooses to do with them.

I’m not about to offer any defense of Romney, and I do think that life experiences matter, but I am skeptical of the notion that someone has to be/have been [poor, rich, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, female, male, etc.] in order to empathize with, represent, and lead people who fall into those categories. Show me a person’s actual policies. That, to me, is much more revealing of how a politician thinks.

First, let me address the idea that this argument would have disqualified JFK, FDR, and a lot of other presidents. On its face, that’s a valid argument, but I believe that there is one important factor that makes this argument moot:

Thanks to Mother Jones for the graph

The income equality gap is higher now than it has been at any time since the Great Depression.

When FDR came to power, despite coming from old New York money, he set out New Deal Legislation, got us through World War II (I am not going to debate the wisdom of either New Deal legislation or his policy decisions in WWII right now) and worked with civil rights organizations like the NAACP. Point being: He wanted to help.

On to JFK. Was he wealthy? Yes. Was he from a wealthy family? Great. But he seemed to understand the problems and priorities of this country in a way that Romney does not. (Kennedy also wasn’t a draft dodger, but that’s another kettle of fish.) Kennedy genuinely wanted to better the lives of his countrymen. I can’t say I’ve seen any indication of that from Romney since his campaign began.

When Mark says “The idea generally that one ought to have been poor at one time to be a good political leader seems odd to me,” I have to say that it’s not to me. He goes on to say that “My expectation is that any person running for president would be long past poverty” and that “there are a lot of people who have been poor whom I’d not trust to run an office lottery pool, let alone the country, and there are a lot who have been rich about whom I’d say the same.”

Does my argument come down to attitude and life experience as much as it does money? Absolutely. But there’s such a huge gap now between rich and poor that I really feel that Romney and other people in his income bracket just simply don’t get it. He has not ever had to worry about a single thing I do on a daily basis.  And his comments about the 47% being “dependent on government” and that a middle class income is “$200,000 to $250,000,” just for a few examples, show how out of touch he truly is.

This baffles me, considering healthcare and gay marriage in Massachusetts, but I don’t trust that he’ll revert back to being a ‘progressive moderate’ once he takes office.

Obama came up from relatively nothing. His mom, while educated, was not rich. He lived in parts of the world where not many people are rich by anyone’s standards. He went to prep school on scholarship and then to Columbia and Harvard the same way most people in my income bracket would, by shelling out for student loans. He worked as a community organizer in Chicago and organized African-American voter drives.

I could go on and on, but my point is that he gets it. He gets what my problems are. He’s worried about money. He’s had to pay off student loans. He’s worried about health care for his family. He’s experienced the problems of being a minority in this country. And the policies that he’s tried to implement (again, the merits of those are a different argument) reflect that.

So while, yes, a lot of it comes down to empathy and policy, I don’t believe Romney has enough of either to lead our country.

Maybe, until the income gap goes down to levels that make sense, we should only allow people who came up from nothing to run. It might help.

*Mark Ashley is a buddy of mine who is also working to be tenured at a university and so doesn’t want his name associated with silly political blogs at this time. Due to his needing to use a pseudonym and then coming up with one as silly as Mark Ashley, I am dubbing him Professor Who, Master of Mystery. (Feel free to insert a booming voice worthy of that title here.) Prof. Who for short. You’ll be seeing a lot more of him, as he’s been set into a contract to write me 8 blog posts by the end of the year.

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Fixin What Ain’t Broke – Voter ID Bill


So yeah, its been a month or so since I’ve posted. Oops.

I don’t really have much of an excuse, except that working full time over break and then starting school has taken a lot out of me. Also, normally I take my politics break over winter break, (there’s only so much I can take before I need some time off and this election cycle was rather insane), and didn’t do so this time. So I’ve been a bit out of the loop. Confession: Still have not watched/listened to/read the State of the Union address. That’s how bad it is. At least I’m still Tweeting.

I’d like to focus on something a little closer to home than national politics today. Shocking, I know! Instead, I want to focus on Wisconsin Attorney General Van Hollen’s proposed Voter ID bill.

To give you some background: This bill is intended to cut down on Wisconsin voter fraud. An admirable goal, for sure. For example, in the 2008 election, there was a huge stink over ACORN in the US and other smaller pieces of fraud in Wisconsin. But in reality, according to a study from Van Hollen’s office, there were only 18 fraudulent votes out of all 3 million votes cast in the state. Big deal? Maybe, but not huge.

So before we beg  the question of whether this bill is necessary at all, here’s how he wants to do it: by requiring all users to show a photo ID before being allowed to vote. And not just any photo ID, but only drivers licenses, state IDs and military IDs.  For example, UW students could no longer use their UW identification cards along with proof of a current address to vote.

Now, we all already know that getting voters to the polls is a problem. If you’re poor, you’re less likely to vote. If you’re a minority, you’re less likely to vote. If you’re young, you’re less likely to vote. If you’re too old, you’re less likely to vote. If you’re disabled, you’re less likely to vote. Less than half of the people in Wisconsin voted in the 2008 election, and even less in the 2010 midterms. So now, all of a sudden, if you decide, “Hey, I might go vote today!” but you’ve been too poor to get a state ID, you can’t.  If you’re a student from out of state and your license hasn’t been switched over, you can’t vote. If you’re elderly and don’t have a license anymore because you don’t drive, you can’t vote. And if you don’t live close to a DMV or work during business hours? You’re SOL.

One Wisconsin Now keeps pointing out the problem, as does the Government Accountability Board.

See the problem?

But it gets even more confusing. According to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article, to make sure this doesn’t amount to a poll tax, state IDs will no longer cost money. But wait, you say, isn’t there a budget deficit? Doesn’t even that small amount of money help the state? Well, yes, yes it does. Thanks for noting that. You forgot to mention cost of training for state employees to learn the new rules, training for everyone else to make sure it’s enforced, and special exceptions for students, elderly, etc.

In fact, according to the Sentinel, in 2009 this was estimated to have an annual 2.9 million dollar price tag. That’s not counting the training costs (estimated at 2 million by the Government Accountability Board), the loss of DMV revenue, or anything else. That’s just the cost of the program itself.

So while I know the Republicans are trying to put some trust back into the political system, I don’t see how this is going to help. You know that saying, if it’s broke, don’t fix it? Here’s another, if it’s broken, don’t spend money to make it worse.

Teh Commerz Clawz: NLRB v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corp


A belated Happy New Year to all! After a wonderful 5 day weekend, in which there was much drinking and debauchery, I am back to work and back to blogging, and can’t wait to start a whole new year of law, politics, and journalism!

So without further ado, welcome to Teh Commerz Clawz: National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Company, which fittingly marks the turning point in the history of Commerz Clawz interpretation, and begins the start of the Major Expansion Era of the Teh Commerz Clawz.

bored lolcat

(How I imagine most ppl feel about law.) It gets moar interestin soon, I promiz!

So if you remember from last time, we’ve established some precedent for what commerce is prior to 1937:

 

1. Commerce is only goods moving in interstate commerce. There is a stream of commerce (Swift) with both a beginning (Schechter) and an end (Carter.) If goods have not yet started shipping or have reached their final destination, the federal government can’t touch them. This also applies to rules that attempt to set minimum wage or other requirements based on the Commerz Clawz.

2. There are things that have direct and indirect effects on commerz. Things like manufacshuring and wages only have an “indirect” effect on commerce, and so can’t be regulated. Things like stockyards, even though nothing is directly sold there, are so much a part of the streem of commerz that they fall under govt control.

3. Manufacshuring is not commerz.  It comes before commerz, and leads to it,  but is not a part of it (E.C. Knight.)

Now I know that’s all realllly boring, but to understand why Jones & Laughlin is so full of impoartant, you have to remember what came first. Also, remember that the last two cases were trying to regulate economic evils that led to the Great Depression. Roosevelt (FDR, not Theodore) kept trying to pass laws for things like minimum wage and health codes, and failing.

At this point, teh Supreme Court had set themselves up as a kind of super-majority. If things didn’t go along with their laissez-faire philosophy, they’d shoot the law down quicker than you can say “bread line.” Which was fine with big business, not so fine with starving people who wanted living wages and food.

fdr court packing plan

See? No onez happie.

After a couple years of this, FDR was really, really mad. He just couldn’t seem to beat Teh 4 Horsemen, who could usually find one justice willing to join them for a majority. So he came up with an idea. Instead of waiting for the Court to come around, he was going to add moar juztices instead. Tons moar juztices.

The general idea was that any juztice over the age of 70 would lead to a new seat on the Court, up to six new seats at any given time. At that point, 6 of the justices were over 70 years old, including all of teh 4 Horsemen. Though Roosevelt said he was trying to create less work for an overstaffed judiciary, everyone knew better. FDR merely wanted enough ppl supportive of Teh New Deal on the Court that they’d quit overturning all his laws.  No one was very happy about it. Matter of fact, it was a big enough deal to be the subject of the first fireside chat of Roosevelt’s second term.

Congress and FDR fought about this for a while, 6 whole months in fact, and then suddenly, Juztice Owen Roberts switched sides. It’s called “the switch in time that saved nine.”

So remember all those things we just talked about? About how manufacshuring and commerz aren’t teh same? How manufacshuring and wages only count as having an indirect effect?

Enter National Labor Relations Board v. Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation.

FDR set up the NLRB in to help workers get bettah wages, primarily in the form of being able to “collectively bargain,” or rather, the right to not be kicked out of your job for joining a union.

NLRB: Strikes affect commerz. If workrs get mad at companys and no work happenz, then that “restricts the free flow of commerce.” Iz bad, and we can regulate it. U must b good to workrs nao. We haz precedent.  (Not discussed here, but the case is Stafford v. Wallace, which is also states the stream of commerce doctrine.)

Jones & Laughlin, one of the biggest steel companies in the country, was sued for discriminating against union workers, and, as usual, instead of just treating their workers better, Jones & Laughlin complained about it.

J&L: No! Manufacshuring iz not commerz, and wages and labor relations izn’t either. U said so alredy. Duh. Screw off, FDR.

All the lower courts agreed with J&L. Obviously, this had already been settled before. But when the NLRB appealed to the Supreme Court, something funny happened. Union Kitteh shall explain:

union cat

Da Ali iz 2 lazee to design her own lolcatz today. Thanks icanhazcheezburger.com!

“So, suddenly, dings changed. Straight up, yo. Teh Court didn’t agree wit teh big business no moar. Instead, teh majority turned all teh way around and agreed wit FDR’s stuffs. All of a sudden, FDR and Congrez gets 2 say what commerz iz, not the Court.

“Chief Juztice Hughes used teh bill written by Congrez, which said that “commerce means trade, traffic, commerce, transportation or communication among the several states…or between points in the same state…” and that dings that affect commerz can includez “tending to lead to a labor dispute burdening or obstructing commerce or the free flow of commerce.”

“Normally, dat would no be right. But the court agreed with that definishun! Hughes then reminded ppl that teh right to organize iz an essential right, and that teh govt haz teh right 2 safeguard it. Iz not interfering in statez rights.

“Third, teh Court saiz that manufacshuring iz nao so cloze to commerz that the 2 can be regulated together. “Although activities may be interstate in character when separately considered, if they have such a close and substantial relation to interstate commerce that their control is essential or appropriate to protect that commerce from burdens or obstructions, Congress cannot be denied that power….”

“Last, obviously, if steel work stopped, that would haz a ginormous impact on teh economy and on teh commerz, and becuz of that, unions are part of commerz and can b regulated. Iz not teh same as E.C. Knight.”

So, in case you hadn’t noticed, a few things changed here. (The 4 Horsemen noticed too. Their dissent can basically be summed up in two words, “Dudes, WTF?”) Suddenly Congress can regulate manufacturing, and wages. The stream of commerce idea is practically done. So now what happens?

Well, a couple different things. In our next case, Wickard v. Filburn, we find the lowest lows of the court’s wishy-washy nature. Then, things go back to normal a little more in the New Federalism Era, which started somewhere around Rehnquist (70s or 80s). Only 4 more cases! We’re almost there!

Teh Commerz Clawz: Carter v. Carter Coal


Hello again everyone!

lolcat quit

If writinz waz cough medicine, that'd be mee.

After a very long hiatus where I think I passed all my finals and such, I am now finally back and ready to finish this giant project I started back in the day called Teh Commerz Clawz, where I explain the precedent to the states’ challenge to the health care bill in super simple speak. Also with lolcats.

I have to admit I almost dropped this project. But then a Virginia judge ruled that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and that the federal government is quite possibly overstepping their Commerz Clawz boundaries. So I decided a) quitting is for quitters, and b) this is honestly too much fun to stop now.

When we left off, we were talking about the end of a “stream of commerce.” In Swift and Co., the court came up with the idea of the stream of commerce doctrine. If something is part of this stream of commerce, even if it seems like intrastate commerce, Congress can regulate it. In Schechter, the court decided that once things, even sick chickz, quit moving, they’re no longer part of the stream of commerce. In Carter, the Court decides where the stream of commerz starts.

So, if you remember, the Court and Roosevelt were embroiled in a royal battle of laissez-faire economics vs. (in my opinion) needed common sense. The Court kept striking down New Deal packages, which made Roosevelt and most of the starving country pretty mad, but was pretty awesome for big business.

hard luck kittehs

We can haz warmth nao?

Right after Schechter, Roosevelt passed the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act, which established a commission to watch over the coal industry. It was paid for with a mine tax, and if the mines complied, they got 90% of the tax waived.  Carter challenged this, suing his own company to say they shouldn’t pay the tax because the law was a violation of Teh Commerz Clawz.

Carter: This tax iz unconztitushunal. ‘Member Knight? Manufacshuring iz not commerz! This iz 4 da states onli, not 4 teh federal government. Iz not a direct effect, onli an indirect one. U said so alreadyz!

US govt: No! Iz not! We iz not onli regulating coal manufacshuring, but labor too. Wages r important, and big busness onli cares cuz they can haz moar monies when they don’t pay workers good. This law allows 4 unions and wage negotiations, and this directly affects commerz. Besides, if there iz doubt about if something iz commerz or not, teh Court should rule for us, not against us.

Teh Court was pretty split, but in the end the 4 Horsemen plus Juztice Roberts ruled for Carter. A 1930s lol-scribe shall explain.

kitten writing

Old lol-cats r 2 cute!

Lol-scribe: “We haz already told u in Knight dat manufacshuring iz not commerz. Coal iz not interstate commerz, because it haz not started moving yet. Just cuz somethin will evenshually be sold, does not maek it commerz nao. Teh coal has not entered teh streem of commerz, but instead iz at the head, before it begins.”

US Govt: That’s not all we iz doing, tho! Unfair wages affect commerz lotz. When ppl don’t get paid fair, then teh company can haz lower prices, and that affects interstate commerz. So iz commerz after all.”

Lol-scribe: “Nope. U iz wrong. Iz all interstate commerz. Juztice Sutherland saiz “Working conditions are obviously local conditions…Such effect as they may have on commerce, however extensive it may be, is secondary and indirect.” Teh onli difference between this case and teh sick chickz case iz that while one was after teh streem ended, this one iz be4 it begins. U still lose.”

So now we know. There is a start and an end to the stream of commerce. Also, anything that only indirectly affects commerce doesn’t count. It has to be obviously in transit between states to be interstate commerce, or be such a big part of it that it doesn’t matter if the transaction was intrastate.

But, you’re saying, that can’t be right! Teh Commerz Clawz is now used to regulate things like medical marijuana within a state. It’s used for tons and tons of things! What happened?

Stay tuned for Jones and Laughlin Steel, coming soon, and find out exactly how President Roosevelt convinced the Court it was time to stop making the Great Depression worse… (Also, we’re only a few cases away from explaining enough precedent to understand this health care bill challenge! Its proof of how much of a geek I am that I’m almost sad to be getting close to the end.)

Also, all old lol-cats were created by a guy named Harry Whittier Frees, who was actually pretty cool. Check it out.

Teh Commerz Clawz: A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Co v. US


Om nom nom!

Welcome back to Teh Commerz Clawz, where I explain the precedent to the states’ challenge of the Health Care Bill in super simple speak. Also usually with lolcatz. Because boring law is far more entertaining when there are cute kitties saying silly things.

If you remember, when we left off last week, we were talking about how teh lolcows in Swift v. US established that there is this thing called a “stream of commerce.” This stream means that if things in intrastate commerz are part of the stream of commerz running through the states, like cows stopping at a stockyard, then they count as interstate commerz. But, now the question becomes, where does that stream stop and start?

I actually put off talking about this case until long enough after Thanksgiving that I could stomach it again. Literally. (Anyone who has read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle knows what I’m talking about.)

This case places us square in the middle of the Great Depression. FDR passed a bunch of laws meant to turn around the failing economy, including laws on wages, fair trading procedures, unions, etc. Big business wasn’t happy about it.

Roosevelt: Teh country iz dieing. I will regulate all teh shizz, and so no onez will be hurt any moar! Yay!
Big business: No! You canz no do that! Iz bad for business! Iz too much powr for u! U iz only Prezident, u can no taek all teh powr 4 urself!

What loyality to laissez-faire economics looked like in the Great Depression

Matter of fact, the Supreme Court wasn’t either. They kept striking down piece after piece after piece of Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Supreme Court: No! We liek teh laissez-faire economicz! We thinkz u iz trying to taek 2 much powr for u! We will taek away all ur bills! No bills 4 u!

Enough that at one point FDR tried to implement his famous court packing plan, leading to the saying “the switch in time that saved nine.” Thankfully, Justice Roberts changed his mind last minute, but point is, the Supreme Court and FDR were not buddies for quite a while.

In the fight leading up to the court packing plan, enter A.L.A Schechter Poultry Corp v. US.

Roosevelt passed this bill called the National Industrial Recovery Act. In it, he regulated the sale of sick chickens. See, people liked to sell sick chickens to butchers for the regular price, then people would eat them and get sick while other people still made a ton of money. Not so good, right? Besides, who wants to eat a sick chicken? Gross.

The law also did other things like regulating working wages and setting prices for things. People didn’t like that either. Too much government intervention and socialism and such (sound familiar?) But anyway, Schechter got charged with, among other things, “sale to a butcher of an unfit chicken.”

Schechter decided to take the government to court over it instead of paying the fines. Schechter held that NIRA was unconstitutional, in part because it overextended the powers of teh Commerz Clawz.

Schechter: I onli sellz mah chickens to intrastate ppls, and I onli buy mah chickens frum intrastate ppl. There iz no interstate commerz. Congress and teh Prez can no regulate this. Iz onli for teh states, iz not part of teh streem of commerz!
U.S.: This haz a direct effect on commerz. Ppl being sick affects commerz. Bad business practices affect commerz. So we can haz regulation, yo!

supreme court justices with cat heads

Om nom nomz!

Teh Supreme Court agreed with Schechter. If you remember last time, we were talking about how while there’s a stream of commerce, at some point there’s a beginning and an end to every stream. Teh Court held that the sick chicks are at the end of the stream.

Juztice Sutherland (evil wolf kitteh at right): “When defendants had made their purchases, whether at the West Washington Market in New York City or at the railroad terminals serving the City, or elsewhere, the poultry was trucked to their slaughterhouses in Brooklyn… The interstate transactions in relation to that poultry then ended.” Basically, when teh chickenz reached New Yoahk, they were onli soldz in New Yoahk. No moar interstate commerz.

This means that there iz no way teh govt can argue this iz interstate commerz. We kno it when we seez it, and this iz not it. “The mere fact that there may be a constant flow of commodities into a State does not mean that the flow continues after the property has arrived and has become commingled with the mass of property within the State and is there held solely for local disposition and use.” After something goez into teh state, and iz not leaving again, then it iz not interstate commerz. Teh end.

U.S.: NO! Iz not teh end! These practices affect interstate commerz! Iz bad for business and for eberything!

Juztice Sutherland: Rong! Member? We toldz u b4! Some things haz a direct effect on interstate commerz. You can haz regulation of that. But sick chickz onli has an indirect effect on commerz. Even if this iz bad for business, that is for teh state to taek care of. Iz no for you. Go ‘way!

So now we’ve established that not only is there a stream of commerce, but it has a definite end. Once something is not going back out of the state to be sold, it’s then part of intrastate commerce. Tomorrow, or the next day depending on my schedule with finals coming up, we shall discover where this stream of commerce starts! (There’s more that goes into these challenges than you thought, isn’t there?)

 

 

You can’t get something for nothing.


“America is an idea – an idea that free people can govern themselves, that government’s powers are derived from the consent of the governed, that each of us is endowed by their Creator with the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. America is the belief that any man or woman can – given economic, political, and religious liberty – advance themselves, their families, and the common good.”

Boehner Unveils GOP "Pledge"

Boehner Unveils GOP "Pledge" photo courtesy of USA Today

Good enough. Fair enough. Absolutely right. Also the introduction to the G.O.P.’s new “Pledge to America,” a 48 page manifesto that states what the GOP hopes to accomplish if/when they take back Congress.

In their introduction alone you’d think the Republican half of Congress would have agreed with Obama’s policies and pushed things through in the last two years. For example, even if you ignore the fact that “any man or woman” includes the poor, the uninsured, the homeless, immigrants, minorities, or the LGBT community, you’d think that helping the middle class  and small businesses with stimulus money or controlling big spending that killed the middle class in the first place would make sense. Let me give another example:

“America is an inspiration to those who yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine their own destiny.

“Whenever the agenda of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to institute a new governing agenda and set a different course.”

True. And guess what? With 66% of the vote, in 2008 we did just that. We elected our first black president. We overwhelmingly elected Democrats to Congress. We wanted our elected officials to cooperate for once and finally GET SOMETHING DONE. We believed that those of us that ‘yearn to be free and have the ability and the dignity to determine our own destiny’ would get health care, would get help getting an education, would get help finding jobs, would get help with housing so that we could figure out our destiny. That’s hard to do while living hand-to-mouth. We wanted our sons and daughters home and for the billions of dollars we’re spending building other country’s economies to benefit us.

And guess what you did, Republicans? You stalled everything! You made sure there was so much misinformation, so much infighting, so much sheer ridiculousness that people still don’t know how the health care bill works. (Now granted, that’s not all your fault. Obama wasn’t helpful either. But he was busy trying to get the damn thing through in the first place.) People honestly think that Obama isn’t an American citizen. That he’s a Muslim even though he goes to a Christian church (not that that should matter in a country built on religious freedom). That he’s going to send old people to “death camps.”

And even those of you who know this isn’t right, know that laws like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell discriminate against those brave enough to serve our country, won’t stand up! (I’m looking at you Senator Susan Collins of Maine.)

And you want to issue a manifesto?!?

So here’s what it says, in brief: They want to repeal the health care bill. They want to extend the Bush era tax cuts for those making over $250,000 a year. They want to freeze stimulus spending. They want to freeze hires in government departments. They oppose taxes on carbon fuels. They oppose government regulation of Freddie and Frannie.

How will this help our economy?!?

So, you’re going to take health care away from children with incurable conditions that are no one’s fault. From those, like me, working 3 jobs and still unable to afford health insurance. From kids finishing college and looking for a job in this horrible economy who get sick or hit by a car, that under the new bill are now allowed to stay on their parent’s health insurance another few years. I think you get the idea.

You want to extend tax cuts from the old administration that got us in this mess in the first place. That’s not going to help the disappearing middle class. I hope they realize the wealth gap is reaching Great Depression era standards.

You want to freeze spending, and freeze hiring? You really, really, truly want to stop the government from HIRING PEOPLE THAT NEED JOBS? Wow.

And oh, you want to stop regulation of the banks that got us into this mess in the first place. Double wow.

Here’s a newsflash: You can’t get something for nothing. You can’t take away health insurance and expect people to be able to contribute to a thriving economy. You can’t be a world leader when others are pushing ahead with green initiatives and we’re not giving companies the economic push they need to do it. You can’t have a healthy economy by taxing those that currently have no money and foreclosed mortgages. You can’t stop hiring people and expect your economy to grow. You can’t ensure this doesn’t happen again without some oversight into those who got us here in the first place, since they obviously can’t be trusted to read the signs themselves.

As you say yourselves: “In town halls and on public squares, in every corner of this country, people have gathered and spoken out – in small groups and larger crowds, through phone calls and in letters, through websites and new technologies.

Though these petitions come from different walks, their message is uniform: Washington has not been listening.”

Hey GOP, it’s time for you to listen.

An Argument Against Calling a Pot a Kettle


Before I begin this rant, remember that primaries are on Tuesday! Don’t forget to vote! And if you lean my way, live in Wisconsin and aren’t sure who to vote for, Fair Wisconsin Education Fund has put together a great list of LGBT-friendly politicians across Wisconsin! Check it out, and again, DON’T FORGET TO VOTE!

Twin Towers Burning

Twin Towers Burning on 9/11, courtesy of encephalus.com

Over the last week, I’ve had several conversations with members of my age group about 9/11. It’s amazing that it’s been nine years since my parents, glued to the radio, tried to explain the importance of hijacked planes and burning buildings to my baffled 13-year-old self. (I was home-schooled. No TV for me.) And most of my friends and I, discussing 9/11 in bars and between classes and during smoke breaks, have agreed: we’ve moved on. It’s a tragedy, and one we will never forget, but the world has continued to turn. Not all Muslims are terrorists. Airport security is still a bitch. We voted in a half-black man whose middle name is Hussein, for chrissake. We just want him to help us find a job.

Except midterm elections have appeared and, since the economy isn’t going to revive itself in the next 2 months, politicians and the media need something, anything else to talk about. Cue the “Terror Mosque.” Cue some guy in Florida holding “International Burn a Koran Day.” Cue the Tea Party Movement. Cue a 24-hour news cycle. Cue an over-flowing of intolerance. And here we are.

Now before I begin talking about the complete difference between the Park51 site, a debate with some actual merit, and an idiot with a handlebar mustache making Christians and Americans look intolerant and uneducated, let me acknowledge how much all this intolerance makes sense. Not logical sense, but in the sense of two wars draining our resources, a government and media that have scared the spit out of gullible Americans about terrorism, more failed terrorism attempts (think Times Square and the Underwear Bomb), and most of all, a failing economy. America is tired. America is scared. America just wants someone to blame, because honestly, we’re still not sure how we got here in the first place. Republicans can’t blame Bush, Democrats can’t yet fully turn on Obama, Independents are blaming everyone. So let’s blame the people that started this mess in the first place by disrupting our happy economy and lives and killing over 2,000 innocent people: Muslims.

Now I fully understand the inaccuracy of that last sentence. But put short and sweet, it makes sense, doesn’t it?

Now, on to the difference between Park51 and Pastor Terry Jones.

International Burn A Koran Day

International Burn A Koran Day sign, courtesy of the NYT

In case you’ve been living without technology, human contact, or any interest in America for the last few months, a man in Gainesville, FL with a ridiculous handlebar mustache proclaimed that “Islam is evil” and he has a right to burn the Koran because it’s “full of lies.” (I reserve the right to burn his pamphlets for the same reason.) The media picked it up and suddenly Mr. Jones caused a giant stir, causing even President Obama to call him off, and inciting riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan complete with burning effigies. Intolerance at it’s height.

But here’s the thing about Mr. Jones and his 50 fundamentalist parishioners. While they obviously need to learn about the Koran, it’s origins, and the common tie between Islam and Christianity, they’re well within their rights to burn the Islamic Holy Book, (assuming the city granted their burning permit, which it didn’t). If you can burn a flag, you can burn a Koran. They’re allowed free speech just like the rest of America. The End.

To me, they proved a point they weren’t trying to make. Namely, that just as Terry Jones doesn’t speak for all Christians, the members of Al-Qaeda don’t speak for all Muslims. The world mourned with us during 9/11. And that includes Middle Eastern countries.

Well, you’d think that would be the point. But looking to the Park51 site, it’s obvious that most people haven’t thought about it that way, though some, like those in Gainesville, have. Instead, somehow Terry Jones has become equated with a supposed mosque site by Ground Zero. Which really just makes the whole thing worse. It’s legitimate, at least in some ways, for people to worry about having a mosque so close to the site of a horrific tragedy caused by Islamic extremists. It becomes less legitimate when this worry is associated with people like Terry Jones. Now even those actually concerned with the feelings of the 9/11 survivors just look like, how to put this, intolerant blanking blanks. The two should NOT be compared!

Does that mean that every single person complaining about the Park51 site is just concerned about hurt feelings? Absolutely not. Many do think just like Terry Jones. Case in point: the site is not just a mosque, but part of an entire community center complete with a pool, and somehow that gets neglected a lot.

But it’s an important debate to have within our nation, and one long coming. Can we finally begin to put aside the suspicion, the fear, the us vs. them mentality, or are we going to make some of our citizens move their place of worship to a less unsettling arena? The answer remains to be seen. But I believe Park51, if built on the planned site, could give people a chance to see that building a mosque, along with a pool and community center, will not blow up New York City. Neither will it in any way endanger our right to pursue life, liberty and a thriving economy.

Instead it will provide construction jobs, give neighborhood kids a place to play and learn life skills, and offer some of our citizens a place to worship the God of Abraham in the manner they see fit. As they did in the World Trade Center and the Twin Towers. As is their right.

Disagree with me? Want to offer another opinion? Have better links than I do? Comment below!