Pointless Legislation

Just in case you weren’t sure, there is such a thing as pointless legislation.  Legislation that may make a point in some way shape or form, but does nothing substantive.  Such a piece of legislation passed through the House of Representatives with bi-partisan support.

The legislation itself is fairly simple. What it does is orders the President to put in the cost of the deficit, per taxpayer of each years spending.  Meaning that if the deficit for the year 2013 is one trillion dollars, and there are 145 million tax returns put in, which is the average, then the President would have to, by law, tell you, dear taxpayer that it costs you an average of around $6896.55

Which is nice, but what can you do with that information?  Look at the number and say “Dayum!  That’s a lot of money!” That is really about it.  It’s sole purpose is to be a reminder that “decisions have real world consequences” says the man who sponsored the legislation, rookie Rep. Luke Messer of Indiana.

It may look to him like it creates an aura of accountability, putting a real number in dollars that an individual can wrap their head around, but it does have an additional consequence.  It will show definitively the amount the annual deficit is actually dropping.  The annual deficit for this year is expected for the first time since 2007 to be under a trillion dollars.  It is supposed to drop to under half a trillion per year by 2015 before going back up due to the cost of all those baby boomers retiring.

The problem with legislation like this is pretty simple.  It does nothing.  This legislation won’t take away from the deficit, it won’t add jobs, it won’t make America a better place, and points to the way Republicans do things.

They like to draw attention to the things that are happening in the world, while not doing a single solitary thing about them.  Mr. Messer is not serving his constituents well here. They would be better served if they had a congressman who tried to get legislation through that does something about the deficit, or job creation, something substantive rather than this cutesy useless crap that does nothing for anyone.

It isn’t the law yet, but I can’t see any reason this silliness wouldn’t become law.  It has to get through the Senate, and being innocuous crap, it should not have any issue getting through the Senate and to the White House.  It will probably get through the Senate in much the same way it got through the House, by a fairly wide margin.

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The Smallest Pawns in a Large Game

The cuts that are taking place thanks to sequestration are being reported much of the time in relation to large scale programs.  In terms of billions of dollars and the mass effect of the cuts.

But the reality of sequestration is far from what is being reported and being spoken about in the press.

It is instead a story of those in need being forced to go without.  The story of thousands of children, special needs children being told to do without.  Thousands of parents of autistic children being told their kids can go without the programs that they need to give their kids the things they need to get by every day.

There is a reason I mention that.  I have a niece and a nephew, both with autism, both who will be affected.  One is turning 11, the other is 8.  I spoke to my brother today, in passing.  My brother’s son is the eight year old.  The boy loves him some Teenage mutant ninja turtles and Spiderman.  He loves going to school.  He loves his teacher, whose name I forget.  Kisses her goodbye every time he leaves school for the day. I’ve been there to pick im up a few times from school.

He is autistic.  Without the help from his teachers and the school system, funded by the federal government, he would not be able to get the help he needs.

The other, my cousin’s daughter loves her teachers and her shows and toys as much as my brother’s son does.  And she needs them more. Though my eye in these matters is neither precise nor educated, she seems to be more affected by autism than he, and he is not just slightly affected.  Speech is affected.  As is thought.  As is emotional control.  As are almost every basic thing we non affected sentient beings take for granted. These kids work on this and more every day, with help from tireless hard-working teachers who give everything they can for these kids.

Apparently one of the first cuts going through in these parts is in education cuts.  So they are losing that, only part of it to begin with.  Half is what my brother told me when I spoke to him earlier today.

How many times can they turn their heads and pretend that they don’t see?

No.

They know.

They see.

These kids, and by extension “We The People” are pawns in a game of chess played by rich men for the control of the money and power, and of who gets both.  Because of that the face of sequestration should not be the face of corporations shutting their doors, bad as that will be when it happens, and it will happen. It is not masses of people made to suffer.  That can be refused, propagandized, compartmentalized.  Turned into something other.  Political will can turn any full grown adult’s pain into something to be looked down on, turned to advantage by the slick marketing of political will.

It is the face of a child asked to go without.

Asked to go without by the protectors of billionaires, by a rich man’s son for no reason other than the greed of adults who should know better.

Sleep tight, America.

The Moral of the Story

It’s all over but the shouting.  The sequester will go through tomorrow.  Now we won’t feel the effects immediately and that mightUSCurrency_Federal_Reserve make some people downplay the sequestration process.  That would be silly, as silly as acting like it’s the end of the world.  It’s neither.  But it will hurt the economy if it is allowed to go on unabated.

But even though sequestration kicks in tomorrow at 11:59 pm, the sequestration legislation news is not over, not by a long shot.  Much of the negative effect of the sequester can be done away with after it kicks in, which will guarantee more news about this subject from a legislative angle until some good middle ground between the two parties can be had.  Just like any other law, it can be changed, altered, even repealed should the need arise. And I can think of no better thing to change, alter and even repeal than the sequestration.

And the effect could be almost completely ameliorated if fixed quickly.  If the congress gets on this next week, if not next week then relatively quickly then the sequester will have had almost no impact.  Not no impact, almost. There have already been effects.

The aircraft carrier  Harry S. Truman is supposed to be on duty in the Persian gulf right now, but has been held in port thanks to the sequester.  It was actually supposed to have been there for a few weeks but has been held here until the sequester is dealt with.

Hundreds of illegal immigrants have been freed thanks to the sequester.  OK, technically it’s a work release program, but they are out of jail.

But the amount of veteran funerals at Arlington national cemetery, which will with sequestration be cut from 31 a day to 24, could be kept to a minimum if congress works on this next week.  As could the furloughing of thousands of federal employees, and all the other cuts to spending in all facets of government, military and non military alike.

The congress is not in session tomorrow, which is why there is no chance of sequestration being avoided.

Any chance of avoiding that fate went out the window today when both the Republican and Democratic sequester replacements were voted down in the Senate.  The Republican replacement bill lost 38-62, and the Democratic replacement lost 51-49. Yes, a majority vote lost.  Sad that in American politics today, a vote that normally would be enough to win couldn’t because Harry Reid didn’t have the nerve to alter the Senate rules so it could actually get work done.  But that is another story for another time.

The moral of the story:  There is still hope of avoiding the worst of the effects of the sequester, despite it’s actually being here.

We’ll see what John Boehner, Harry Reid and their compatriots can get done.

Plausible Deniability

The President has put out a list that presents specific amounts of financial cuts in a state by state list that shows exactly the damage that sequestration will wreak on them.  Being from New York, and being the curious type, I decided to read exactly what kind of effect the state can expect to feel when the shit hits the fan come Friday.

According to the President, New York alone can expect to see over 42 million dollars in cuts to primary and secondary education funding.  That would put 590 teachers and teachers aides jobs at risk.  There is even more daunting news as far as education is concerned.   Enough funding will be lost to to cut several hundred teachers job for kids with disabilities.  Which means, bluntly stated, that if your kid has autism or some other disability, you or someone just like you will be shit out of luck.

Click here for links

But the fun doesn’t stop there, ladies and gentlemen.  No sirree bob it does not.  12,000 civilian DoD employees would be furloughed; and the total amount of cuts to military base funding?  One hundred and eight million dollars just for this year.

The stop violence against women program would lose the capacity to assist over 1,500 women.

Want help from Workforce one?  Good luck.  Funding for them gets cut drastically enough to effect over 45,000 job seekers.  That’s 45,000 people who wont get the help they need finding work so they can stand up on their own two feet.

Fun, huh?

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So, with the President basically telling the entire nation that IT is about to hit the fan and that everyone is gonna feel it, how do the house republicans respond?  By planning on giving the President greater discretion on where to cut.

Just amazing the chutzpah of these bastards. Rather than lightening the load, putting forth something that might actually do something for the people affected, they’re basically saying “Cut where you like Mr President, we’re washing our hands of the entire thing.” Note that it doesn’t say the amount cut will shrink. Nope.  They don’t want that.  Lazy America hating conservative bastards.

It gives them an out, a way for them to say”We gave him the budget ax! He did the cutting! See!  It wasn’t us!” or more accurately put gives them a level of plausible deniability that they can take back to their constituents.  And then call it the Obamaquester, a stupid name if I’ve ever heard one.  But the only problem is that it is not  plausible on any level.

Sure as hell not in mine, or anyone else who knows what exactly is going on here.  This is a cheap ploy from lazy conservatives trying to make it look like they are doing something while doing nothing.

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The aims of both sides here are simple, at least as far as I can tell.  The Republicans want the sequester to look like it’s no big deal, something we can handle easily and whatever is a big deal gets blamed on the President.  The Democrats is to make the sequester look like hell on earth, and everything is to be blamed on the Republicans.

So rather than actually do something here, we see them play politics with our money that we pay into our system for our benefit, and risk it all in the name of partisanship.  On top of damaging the country, this makes a mockery of “We The People” by putting partisan politics ahead of prosperity and our future.

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My advice?  We can’t do anything about what these people do, so let’s just watch it happen.  I for one plan to be in front of a television on Thursday night, watching c-span as the whole thing either goes to pieces, or gets temporarily fixed and basically put off for another day, when we can do all over again!

No Real Shot for the Assault Weapons Ban

Don’t expect any realistically workable assault weapons ban legislation to get off of the floor of the Senate anytime soon.  There is simply, despite the clarion call by the bulk of the American people for sensible legislation in this area, not enough support from the Senate Democrats in order to pull that off.  Mark Begich, Kay Hagan, and several other Senate Democrats are in the process of starting up their 2014 re-election campaigns, and as we all know in the age of the perpetual campaign that is an important element.  And since a number of them live in red states, their votes simply cannot be counted on to be there to vote for the assault weapons ban.

There is much more to the Democratic Senators not backing the assault weapons ban than the perpetual election cycle. Some of these people genuinely dislike the thought of an assault weapons ban.  A few examples would be Montana Senators Max Baucus and Jon Tester, and Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor.

Mark Pryor gets a D from the NRA, but a closer look at his stances reveals a man who is pro-gun in a great many ways, from voting to prohibit lawsuits against gun manufacturers to voting yes on prohibiting aid to organizations and entities that require the registration of , or taxes guns owned by American citizens. I cannot find any real serious attempt on Sen. Pryor’s part to in any way vote against the gun lobby in any way whatsoever.

Max Baucus a number of years ago voted for loosening gun licensing restrictions at gun shows, and has stated that he is for repealing federal restrictions on the purchase  and possession of guns.  Jon Tester has much the same record as his two compatriots, and on top of that voted to ban gun restrictions in Washington DC.

On top of these three senators, there are the several other democrats in the Senate who are similar in their voting records.  Which points as far as I can see it to a large Democratic roadblock to any assault weapons ban.

Everywhere I have looked on the Internet, and I have looked in a great number of places, I cannot find a single article that points to any realistic possibility of there even being a Democratic majority in the Senate.  And if there is no possibility there, then there isn’t a snowballs chance in hell of there being enough votes to get past the now obligatory cloture vote that the senate now has to go through.

From this vantage point, and frankly from any realistic vantage point in the story of the assault weapons ban, there is only one salient point to drive home;  it is done.  It cannot pass.  That doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.  But sadly, the NRA has won another round against people who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace.  It is sad to think that the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have been overridden by lobbyists working for gun manufacturers.

Sad but true.

(Minor edit,  2/24/13 11:30 pm edt)

Hope On The Horizon?

We are nearly out of the woods after years in one of the most debilitating economic crises this nation has faced in its history.  Congress’  response to it?

Let’s do it again!

The possibility of sequestration with layoffs and furloughs for thousands of workers across this great nation will take all the effort and hard work that has gone on over the last few years and flush it down the toilet is a hard one to swallow from this group of do-nothing Republicans.  Forced to deal with that because our President, in order to get some kind of deal done back in 2011, had to make a deal with the devil, aka the House Republicans, to avert a complete disaster with the debt ceiling.

But there is some hope on the horizon.  Click here for links

A deal is still on the table, put their by the President that would avert the looming doom that is sequestration.  The deal includes the chained CPI, a hard but necessary step to take. It has smaller more palatable cuts to non-discretionary spending, with cuts in drug company payments as well as fee restructuring in a number of key areas. It also has within it a limitation in tax deductions for the wealthy that will generate well over half a trillion dollars.

Given that the alternative puts tens of thousands of people in harms way unnecessarily, I am hoping that the Republicans come t their senses and accept this deal, or perhaps some modified version of it, if this is unpalatable.

There are those on the other side of the aisle, most notably mr. P90x himself, Paul Ryan, who seem to think that sequestration is in some way acceptable.

I would ask him is furloughing police officers, firefighters, teachers, corrections officers, and the national guard  acceptable? I would ask him if all the pain and misery created by letting his friends in the defense industry lose money because of cuts in government spending, is that acceptable?  I would ask him if letting people suffering through no fault of their own because of being unemployed because their benefits would expire, is that acceptable?

I hope it isn’t, because America can’t take much more of this stupid decision-making on the part of the Republicans. They are leading America down a dark and ugly road towards economic disaster, and we’ve had enough of that already.  We’re done with that.

The deal that the President has laid on the table here takes into account our future in a way that is forward-looking, makes good use of our present to prepare for our future without causing too much discomfort, and shines a light on the right way to be fiscally responsible while at the same time helping those who need that help the most.

I for one could use some time off from all the histrionics that these Republicans keep creating.  Accept the deal and let us go on with our lives, please.  Thank you.

Dead On Arrival? I’m Not So Sure

Marco Rubio says the Presidents “Plan B” on immigration reform will be dead on arrival.  I am not so sure.  Let’s look at it and see why the presidents backup plan, if it comes down to it, can make it through both houses.

First things first. To understand the reasoning behind having a plan b, you have to first look at where plan A is coming from.  No one in this country is living under a rock, we all know how dysfunctional the congress has been.  The debt ceiling negotiations showed America exactly what the house of representatives is about.  Gridlock and showboating for ideas that are not so much ideas as they are the whining carping noise of spoiled brats who expect to get everything they want when they want it, and that is both sides of the argument. And what they did with every other major piece of legislation over two plus years points to a level of ineffectiveness that is as startling as it is sweeping.

The filibustering that happens in the senate on every single piece of important piece of legislation, where everything is forced to a cloture vote shows a complete and utter disregard for the needs of the people of this divided nation. The senate cannot agree to a simple straight up and down vote on anything.  Mitch McConnell and his cronies have made sure that everything that runs through the senate has the taint of obstructionism attached to it.

But there are other things afoot here with immigration legislation.  The Republicans, the architects of the obstructionism listed above, know that part of the reason they got beaten in the 2012 election cycle was the fact that they lost the Latino vote by a nearly 4 to 1 margin and they want desperately to change that.  The know they need something to hang their hats on that will attract latino voters, and the best place to do that would be here.

But the obstructionists have a history of shooting themselves in the foot. Enter the President with a backup plan, just in case the obstructionists do what they do best and block sensible legislation.

Now we know Republicans don’t generally cotton to voting for democratic proposals, especially with a democrat in the White House.  But that should be mitigated somewhat with the need to try to attract Latino voters to a Republican party that is  becoming the party of old white people and rich tax dodgers.

Now I am not saying that there is going to be widespread Republican support for any plan B that comes from the Presidents desk.  I’m not even sure if it will come to that plan B.  What I am saying is this; there is a likelihood that enough Republicans, sensing nationwide losses that could occur if they do nothing on this subject, will jump on board and vote for sensible legislation, especially on a subject as high profile as this.

Especially those Republicans in blue or purple states.  And there are enough of those to turn a Democratic plan B which has in it a road to turn illegals into citizens (and voters who may well vote for them if they give them a chance to live here) and makes them pay taxes on money earned when they were illegals into a winner even in Republican circles. You would think that more voters on their roles and more money in government coffers without raising taxes would be popular with them.  Go fig.

Marco Rubio would be better served looking out for the long term interests of the nation rather than focusing on shooting Republicans in the foot with fiery rhetoric.

Again.