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July 5, 2014 / Political Fluency

Hobby Lobby Bo Bobby

The Hobby Lobby decision in one headline:

Michelle Obama Fights GOP on School Lunch Rules

The article reads:

WASHINGTON (AP) — First ladies typically avoid getting into public scraps, but Michelle Obama has jumped into perhaps her biggest battle yet.

She’s fighting a House Republican effort to soften a central part of her prized anti-childhood obesity campaign and she says she’s ready ‘‘to fight until the bitter end.’’

Mrs. Obama even mocked the GOP effort in an opinion column and argued her case before her Twitter followers.

‘‘Remember a few years ago when Congress declared that the sauce on a slice of pizza should count as a vegetable in school lunches?’’ she wrote in The New York Times. ‘‘You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that this doesn’t make much sense. Yet we’re seeing the same thing happening again with these new efforts to lower nutrition standards in our schools.’’

I highlighted the world’s oldest and largest newsgathering organization tracking a story of the unelected First Lady fighting an entire political party in Congress who determined vegetable veracity in school lunches.

 

I’ve always loved Michelle Obama’s cause to encourage our nation – especially children – to eat healthier. And as a citizen and concerned mother, she should absolutely voice her concerns to Congress. But that’s where it should end. Encouragement and concern, not fighting.

 

Why all of this about an article on Hobby Lobby?

 

Because this is what is wrong with the entire Hobby Lobby case.

 

Ruth Bader Ginsburg is right in her “epic” dissent that employers can now object to complying with other laws that violate their religious beliefs.

The bullet points of the conservative perspective are here.

The bullet points of the liberals are here.

 

And lastly, from Sean Trende: Over-under on percentage of people tweeting about Hobby Lobby who have both read the decision and understand what RFRA is? 2 percent? 3?

 

Everyone was harping on religious rights and anti-women: all of it was hacking at the leaves on the twigs let alone the branches.

 

No one talked about two fundamental things wrong that would have eliminated the entire case from even existing to begin with.

 

The first is we do not have health insurance, we have health care financing. We have had first-dollar coverage for health care for decades by a third party payer: either from a health insurer or the government. This raises the cost for care since third-party payers get charged more by doctors. Just like college tuition has skyrocketed since the government stepped in as a third-party payer. And most health insurance deductibles are so low, it is still near first-dollar coverage.

 

This is ridiculous. We should have health insurance provided by either private companies and/or the government. And by insurance, it should be to prevent a financial catastrophe for an individual or family. While everyone is arguing about how unfair it is that contraception isn’t covered, but Viagra is, no one seemed to pick up on why insurance should be used to cover such low-cost items in the first place!

 

You wouldn’t argue how car insurance should cover the cost of a broken headlight or homeowner’s insurance should replace a worn-out  water heater in the basement. Why? Because these aren’t financially catastrophic events that require an insurance company or the government to help make you whole again. Neither is Viagra nor an aircast for a sprained ankle and certainly not a $25 – $60 pill that is meant for one-time use in an emergency.  Yet we’ve been conditioned to expect those three things to be paid for with other people’s money instead of out-of-pocket for the individual.

 

The second thing that is fundamentally wrong is the continued outsourcing of our individual and family life choices to government and to corporations. Both have a tendency to limit these choices as people in government seek more power over citizens and corporations seek more power and money from citizens.

 

One of the stupidest signs held by a number of protestors said, “Birth Control: Not My Boss’s Business.”

When the company you work for is pretty much your only option for health coverage and that employer is paying 50% or more for the cost of that coverage, then what the Boss is paying for is indeed his or her business. If the Boss simply paid you a salary then the transaction with your Boss is over and you can use that money to pay for fast-food, a gun, an SUV with poor gas mileage, the health insurance you want, the car insurance you want, Viagra, or the morning-after pill. Maybe all of the above if you’re so inclined. Now those things are none of your Boss’s business. But if the Boss is paying for 50% or more of the financing mechanism for health care that we still dubiously call insurance, then your Boss is going to be up in your mix like Betty Crocker.

 

And the reason the Boss has to be up in your mix about these affairs is because the government is mandating that the Boss provide these things. And now we have a spiral of citizens expecting things they should have been paying for out of their own pockets to be paid for by someone else.

 

Here’s an empathy check for you:

If you’re liberal, would you be offended if you had to pay for someone else’s gun?

You should be. The right to have a firearm is clearly in the Constitution, but now you have to pay for it.

If you’re conservative, are you offended that you have to pay for someone else’s abortion?

You should be. The right to have an abortion has been interpreted from the Constitution and now you have to pay for it.

 

How about we do this instead?

 

Let’s keep guns legal and if you feel the need to have one, then go buy one.

Let’s keep abortion legal and if you feel the need to have one, then go buy one.

Let’s keep Viagra legal and if you feel the need to have it, then go buy it.

Let’s keep Plan B legal and if you feel the need to take it, then go buy it.

 

None of the above purchases are financially catastrophic. You don’t need money from the financial reserves of an insurance pool nor from the government to help pay for any of the above.

 

And let’s go further.

 

I want gambling to be legal, but I don’t want the government to be the bookie* with state lotteries and I don’t want to have to fund the sports arenas that host the events being bet on.

I want marijuana to be legal, but I don’t want the government to be the dealer and I don’t want to have to pay for it whether it’s medicinal or not.

I want all marriages to be legal, but I don’t want the government defining what marriage is, forcing religions to marry certain people to each other, and I don’t want to have to pay for anyone’s wedding. The government should allow every person to have one adult dependent. That’s it. It is your business if you call that person “my husband,” “my wife,” “my spouse,” or “my 27 year-old sister who is in grad school and I made her my dependent so she can be put on my health insurance.”

And if these relationships  (that are all legally recognized in the same way) need to be legally ended, I don’t want the government asking why it is ending because of “Adultery” or “Irreconcilable Differences” or ”my sister got a job and now has her own health insurance.”

 

When the government defines marriage, then we will fight over who can marry whom.

When the government controls what we feed our children in local schools, then we will fight about what local schools serve for lunch.

When corporations are the only place we can earn an income, then what they deem is fair pay is what we will earn. And then we make the government outline minimum wage and equal pay standards those corporations have to follow.

When corporations are the primary place for affordable health care financing, then what they deem is acceptable coverage is what we will be covered for. And then we make the government outline minimum essential coverage standards those corporations have to follow.

 

This is why we’re so divided.

We fight over everything!

Because the government is involved with everything. Either government provides it or mandates we get it.

Corporations provide us with most of what’s left and sucks everyone around us in if we don’t have it.

“You deleted your Facebook profile?”

“How do you not have a smartphone?”

 

What previous generations lived in fear of government knowing about our private lives we are volunteering all of that and more to Facebook.

What previous generations lived in fear of government knowing where we are is now being posted on FourSquare by us and sometimes our friends. Which leads to:

How previous generations lived in fear of government spying on our private lives and we are now spying on one another with our camera phones to sell topless photos of nude celebs on an island halfway around the world to be viewed by millions in the National Enquirer while we wait in line for groceries.

Previous generations feared having to be censored in private conversations and being recorded by the government. And now we fear each other that we may be recording something that can be used against us in the future to make us unhireable or force us to sell the LA Clippers.

 

Do you think that’s air you’re breathing right now?

 

Oh and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria just declared a caliphate in preparation for what might be the Muslim version of the Thirty Years’ War! And one of the reasons we went in there was to prevent such a thing from happening.

 

Happy 238th birthday America!

 

*Bill Maher

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January 30, 2013 / Political Fluency

Denial

I categorically deny any use of performance enhancing drugs with my reported involvement in the stories that broke this week. As you can see by the memos of the checks, I may just be guilty of overpaying a little bit for my prescriptions – probably due to taxes from Obamacare.

The dates of the checks occurring right before I began this site is purely coincidental.

PED Checks

December 29, 2012 / Political Fluency

Newtown

This site began in January of 2011 with a post about a crazy, lunatic nutjob that targeted Congresswoman Gabrielle Gifford and ended up wounding her while killing 6. And now in December of 2012 here’s another post about a crazy, lunatic nutjob that targeted children and ended up committing suicide while killing 26.

Back in 2011, I posted 3 days afterward to tell everyone to CTFD. In the wake of an even more horrendous shooting rampage – maybe the worst in US history with innocent children as the victims – in an educational environment that is closest to my heart, I waited 2 weeks afterward to tell everyone to CTFD.

 

In those two weeks it seems everything has been said, which is fine because I prefer to say something original when emotions have settled down. It is much better to evaluate movies and TV shows this way. Either it holds up to posterity or it doesn’t. Likewise, editorials about wanting to talk about guns the very next day, from the same media that got the killer’s identity wrong only hours before, are loaded with predetermined political points before the facts are laid out before us. And most importantly, before we’ve had a chance to grieve.

 

Even as time has passed, we had the completely embarrassing tirade of the President of the National Rifle Association, Wayne La Pierre, as he gave the most politically tone deaf statement of the year… an election year at that.

 

The NRA’s idea to put armed guards in every school is ludicrous. Where are we getting the money for that? We have no money! Right now. None! And the NRA’s constituency is typically wary of government spending. It’s the Democrats who should be all over this with 100,000 public schools in the country and at least one more armed employee in each means 100,000 union members.

 

This wouldn’t work functionally either because I was just at the Social Security Administration in New York and as I entered the armed guard was at the self-serve kiosk handing me my ticket out of boredom that I was to be called at #186. After months and years of no threats to the schools they are protecting, the average armed guard would likely become complacent and be woefully unprepared for a determined psycho who is armed with the intent to kill students.

 

We can’t afford an overreaction. Look at a decade in Iraq and Afghanistan each as examples.

 

Megan McArdle had the best opinion piece with the truth no one wants to hear: we can’t do anything. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/17/there-s-little-we-can-do-to-prevent-another-massacre.html

Unfortunately, there have been so many of these shootings that they actually serve as the rebuttals to people’s ideas.

 

Background checks were enforced on Adam Lanza as it seems he was denied in his attempt to buy a gun shortly before he went into Sandy Hook Elementary School. Any existing or stricter background checks would’ve been done on his mother, not him. In fact, Adam Lanza needed to shoot his mom in the face dead in order to access all of the guns and the car needed to carry out the massacre. That’s quite a barrier to gun access if there ever was one.

 

We need to have a serious discussion about mental health in this country. But where will that end? Someone pops a Xanax and he can’t own a gun? A register of mental health diagnoses that completely violate HIPAA, let alone any expectations of privacy, is a non-starter.

 

This is a major shift in the debate. There was almost no talk about mental health after the school shootings in the late 90’s culminating in Columbine. It was a total culture war – rural gun owners who despised the media versus urban media consumers who despised guns – arguing about shootings in the suburbs separating the two of their worlds.

 

While noteworthy conservatives like Peggy Noonan and Michael Savage have spoken out on limiting the number of rounds in the magazines, a position I agree with, this wouldn’t have done anything to prevent the Virginia Tech massacre as the killer perpetrated the worst shooting spree with two handguns with 10-round magazines – the number of rounds most legislation wants to limit clips to. Handguns are never going to be banned.

 

And this is the most important point everyone needs to make note of: take every shooting spree story of a killer armed with an assault weapon or rifle and replace the shooter’s weaponry with two handguns. How many people does that shooter end up killing instead?

 

Many would argue less. Given their proposals, the logic of gun control activists leans that way. But – without looking it up – how many people were killed at Columbine? How many at Virginia Tech? You probably don’t know the exact number to any of them. That’s because it’s not the number killed that’s important, but the emotional shock of the event that is felt across the nation. So this really is about a public policy debate that deals with an emotional shock that is felt by millions as all different sides act like we can actually control how chaotic life actually is. Instead of the logistics of the event and where things went wrong.  And laws and regulations on things such as guns are logistical matters.

 

When we ask ourselves honestly, where could we have logistically stopped Adam Lanza? We’ll find that it is impossible to have covered all of the bases with any level of certitude. One of those bases is a background check and it’s maddening that he failed it, but was still able to carry this out.

 

But we’re not going to scrutinize the details of this massacre and compare it to the others and give the data to brilliant Nate Silvers to get the pattern recognition in the Zeitgeist. Instead, we’re going to watch the President and other Democrats propose the typical liberal wish list on gun control they’ve wanted for decades while the other side continues to buy guns at a record pace. The insanity continues.

November 14, 2012 / Political Fluency

Initial Election Recap

To begin with, my heart is broken. Not because Mitt Romney lost, but because 7.7 million less voters turned out than in 2008. While Romney lost 860,000 votes off of John McCain’s showing in 2008, Barack Obama lost 6.9 million votes off of his own total from four years ago. In fact, President Obama gained only 576,000 more votes above President Bush’s 2004 victory!

Even with 6% less voters exercising one of the most important rights a free citizen of a democracy can and the majority lost from the Democrat side, we ended up with a status quo election that leaned slightly Democrat. The House remained Republican with Democrats gaining 5 seats. The Senate remained Democrat-controlled with a gain of 2 seats. As recently as February, the Republicans were looking at the possibility of winning the 4 seats necessary to take back control of the Senate so that 6 seat swing is significant and will be discussed in future posts.

For right now, there’s a lot of data to look at from what happened last Tuesday. I am actually optimistic about the lame duck session debate over the fiscal cliff. House Majority Leader John Boehner said all of the right things in his speech asking the President to lead and if it’s as simple as President Obama says it is, the Republicans should extend the Bush tax cuts for those making under $250,000 soon. This would allow the Republicans to say the Bush tax cuts have been extended so they can begin to loosen the meme that they were strictly tax cuts for the wealthy. From There the Democrats can begin a debate with how we should handle taxation. There are numbers between the Bush rate of 35% for the wealthiest Americans and the Clinton rate of 39.6%. And the Republicans can always debate that the small businesses taxed at that individual rate of 35% can be exempt from the increase by rewriting the tax code.

Let’s hope they work together because if the Democrats go in this direction with a litany of things that aren’t in the top 5 of voters’ minds, then we really are looking at the 4th term of George W. Bush.

November 11, 2012 / Political Fluency

Veteran’s Day

THANK YOU!

November 5, 2012 / Political Fluency

The Election Prediction

“Forget technique. Forget strategy. This is just a street fight. It’s a question of who wants it most.”

–          Rocky IV

Election Day 2012 is the reason I love politics. I still get Christmas Eve on the first Tuesday of every November no matter what year it is. Once every 4 years that Tuesday is tomorrow – which is like Christmas if it was combined with Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and a rent-out-the-entire-arcade Birthday Party.

Not only could I barely sleep over the past few nights, but I know I will also be up until at least 3am tomorrow watching returns after bar hopping to various election night watch parties. And the best part about 2012? I have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. This hasn’t happened to me since 2000, but I am going to make a prediction anyway. It’s not just the not knowing what’s going to happen, but how it happens is equally important because it affects political behavior going forward.

I.

This election really needed to happen in the summer of 2011 as we had that debacle of a debate over the debt ceiling. The Republicans had just made historic gains in the House in November 2010 and that was after turning two Democrat governorships in Virginia and New Jersey to Republicans in 2009 and then won a shocking upset as Republicans took Democrat icon Ted Kennedy’s seat in a special election after his death. Meanwhile President Obama was elected with the highest popular vote total since 1988 and had approval ratings 3 times that of Congress. This left both sides feeling like they had the mandate from voters.

When it was time to finally discover the direction the voters wanted to take the country, we had an October Surprise literally from God as a hurricane dominated the news for a full week and flattened Romney’s momentum inclusive of the Republican Convention keynote speaker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, praising Obama’s efforts to assist in the recovery.

To be clear, I very much want Romney to win, but I am going to be content with the result of Obama winning. With the latter the next two years will unfortunately be almost exactly like the last 2 years where nothing gets done and the more conservative off-cycle electorates will barnstorm the state and federal governments with another wave of Republican victories. Greece will exit the Eurozone – something that has never happened before on this scale. Even if that occurs without setting off a worldwide downturn, we still have to wait and see how Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Ireland will fare.  If any one of those other four countries have to exit the Eurozone as well, let alone two or more, then we have another worldwide economic crisis on our hands. And the American people are going to blame the President whether he said we’re going “Forward” and “we’ve come to far” or the President who said, “I know how the economy works and I have a plan to create 12 million new jobs.”  

II.

Every legitimate explanation for each man to win and each of the supporting possibilities sound very reasonable.

Brit Hume echoed these sentiments saying that he was on two different conference calls with each campaign just nodding his head as each side laid out their path to victory and supporting facts stating how it was going to happen.

The bottom line is that, until Hurricane Sandy, Romney was going to win the election if the national polls were correct (which they were in 2008). And Obama was going to win if the state polls were correct. The divergence between the two sets of polling was significant and only one set is going to end up correct.

Either way, it’s going to be very close.

While I can’t handicap the Super Bowl as well as I can handicap politics, I felt there were only three possibilities: 1) Giants Wins Close, 2) Pats Wins Close, or 3) Giants Wins Big. I never thought the Pats were going to run the score up on the Giants. Had there not been a holding call on a Brandon Jacobs’ run for a first down as the Giants were already up 12 – 0 and had a very good shot of going up 15 – 0 or even 19 – 0 on that drive, we may have seen a blowout.  

Likewise there were only three ways this election is going to turnout: 1) Romney Wins Close, 2) Obama Wins Close, or 3) Romney Wins Big. Obama clearly lost support and enthusiasm from his election in 2008 so there was very little possibility of him winning in a landslide. Incumbents are hard to defeat so it was very likely to be close either way. And that incumbent has presided over the highest unemployment rate in 80 years making a huge defeat for him in the realm of possibility.

Let me kick myself first: “How could I possibly think Obama could win when he’s been losing independents for 3 years?”

And

“How could I possibly think Romney was going to win when he almost always trailed Obama in Ohio?”

Reasons for a Romney Victory

For all of the chatter that Romney was just like the 2004 Democrat nominee John Kerry – a stiff, rich Massachusetts politician – they never mentioned how John Kerry would’ve won had the election been held 6 months later let alone a year or two later. This is the chance for the swing voters to vote for John Kerry like they wish they did.

And this is also the chance for all of those “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” moderates and independents to vote for a businessman like Lee Iacocca or Ross Perot to become President.

The fundamentals are completely on Romney’s side: the unemployment rate, the stagnant growth of the economy, the unpopularity of anyone in Washington, 55% believe the country is on the wrong track, and he has the support of Independents – the voters who decide elections.

Romney won the Redskins Rule when the team lost at home yesterday which correlates with an incumbent party loss of the White House.

Reasons for an Obama Victory

Obama won the Halloween mask poll that’s predicted the past 4 elections since they started keeping track in 1996. While 1996 and 2008 were blowouts, 2000 and 2004 were close.

President Obama used the Bush 2004 strategy on steroids – make the opponent unacceptable to an evenly divided electorate. It worked then, when everyone was scared that the next terrorist attack could happen at any time, and it worked now, when everyone is scared that the next downturn could happen in the next quarter.

Obama had help from an unlikely source: Romney did next to nothing the entire month of September. One of the most intuitive political observers is Peggy Noonan who wrote today in a column predicting a Romney win:

All the vibrations are right. A person who is helping [Romney] who is not a longtime Romneyite told me, yesterday: “I joined because I was anti Obama—I’m a patriot, I’ll join up But now I am pro-Romney.” Why? “I’ve spent time with him and I care about him and admire him. He’s a genuinely good man.” Looking at the crowds on TV, hearing them chant “Three more days” and “Two more days”—it feels like a lot of Republicans have gone from anti-Obama to pro-Romney.

That should’ve been September 4th, not November 4th.  I know he was doing a rope-a-dope strategy, but Romney waited way too long to start punching back. He wasted all of September. Had the first debate followed up an existing framework and argument the GOP was making against Obama in the weeks prior, then there might have been an even bigger bounce from the first debate than the historic bounce he actually did get.

Romney went into Pennsylvania. Is this to expand the map because most of the Bush 2004 states are locked up or is this a Hail Mary pass because he needs something big to happen? Today Romney was in Florida, which should’ve been locked up 10 days ago. Pennsylvania is a bold play instead of a map expanding move. He’s not going to win Ohio, Obama is and another 4 years of the Presidency with it.

Obama 281 to Romney 257

November 5, 2012 / Political Fluency

Event #7 – The October Unemployment Report

Like the 3rd Quarter GDP Report, this event is also getting overlooked by both the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s destruction and the final weekend of campaigning when both candidates prefer to make their closing statements versus commenting on a number to the tenth of a percentage. This event would have been bigger absent Sandy, but it’s relegated to minor status.

President Obama avoided a bigger story when the October unemployment number of 7.9% managed to stay just below 8%, which was a big danger when last month’s unemployment surprisingly dropped to 7.8%. That 7.8% number was the unemployment rate when Obama took office so the slightly higher 7.9% allowed Mitt Romney to say that “unemployment is now higher than the day he took office.”

The number hardly affected the campaigns since its release. Let’s call it a slight win for Romney on this one.