Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hispanics: Why a Speech to La Raza Was More Important Than a Speech to the Nation

By Douglas E. Schoen

President Obama's most important speech in terms of his long term political fortunes was not his address to the nation last night on the debt ceiling crisis.

To be sure, the President felt a need to reiterate the basic argument he has been making about the superiority of his plan over that of the Republicans and speaker John Boehner. And with Boehner's response it seems pretty clear that both sides have, for the time being, hardened their positions and solidified support with core constituencies.

In short, neither side has changed many minds.

But far more significant was the President's trip to the National Council of La Raza in Washington yesterday where the President spoke on the need for Hispanic empowerment and the need to pass comprehensive immigration reform. With his position among whites weakening and his standing in states like North Carolina and Virginia and Indiana very much up for grabs, the President is going to need to consolidate his hold in states with large Hispanic populations like Florida, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, that he won last time, and add other states with Hispanic populations like Arizona, Illinois and New Jersey, and to be able to get the 270 electoral votes that he needs to win the election.

The President did cancel a couple of fundraisers yesterday, and that was probably reasonable and appropriate, given the ongoing crisis. It wouldn't look particularly good for the President to be raising money from fat cats at a time when he is seemingly making tough decisions on the budget and the deficit with Congressional Republicans and when the nation is facing a legitimate crisis.

But the largely unwritten story of the 2012 election, is the importance of the Hispanic vote. In last 15 years the size of the Hispanic vote has almost doubled, and in key swing states they are the critical group that will make the difference next year. With Obama having gotten close to 70% of the Hispanic in 2008, he needs that level of support or most likely more to win reelection in what by all rights will be closer contest in 2012 than it was in 2008.

The President and his advisors know this-- seemingly the Republicans don't--otherwise the GOP would be more proactive in supporting some form of comprehensive immigration reform. The Tea Party members were elected to stand up for their constituents on fiscal issues, and are certainly doing that, no matter what the political consequences are in next year's congressional election.

The issue of immigration is of huge national importance to our country, and even greater political importance in the short term electoral context. No one, save the President and his advisors, are seemingly focused on it, and this could be the key to whether he succeeds in winning reelection his year.

Douglas E. Schoen is a political strategist. His most recent book is "Mad as Hell: How the Tea Party Movement is Fundamentally Remaking Our Two-Party System" published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Washington, It's Time to Put On Your Big Boy Pants

By Penny Young Nance

Many families in this great country have been forced to look at their monthly budgets and see where they can make cuts. Maybe they can spend a little less on food, eating more vegetables than meat one week or maybe they need to cancel cable or forgo their summer vacations. Maybe they even need to look at the future and cut back on contributing to their retirements or their kid's college savings account. Some folks sadly have to dig even deeper and give up essentials. All of it is painful!

What the vast majority of financially hurting families don't do every month is go on a shopping spree at the mall, take a trip to Vegas, or spend simply open up a new credit card to allow for more debt. And those families who do have debt problems from bad decisions in the past are trying to rectify it by cutting spending and paying off that debt. That's just how a household budget works.

Women, who head up a majority of the household budgets in this country, sit down every week with a calculator and their checkbooks and make really hard decisions. There are sleepless nights and stress associated with these decisions, but they put on their big girl pants and make them just the same.

This is why Americans are so angry with our national leaders. It's not really that complicated. There is lots of talk about T-bills and bond ratings. Yes, we know the global financial markets and Federal Reserve policy are complicated, but the basic principle is not. We as a nation must live within our means. Forgive me if that sounds over-simplified or antiquated.

But again, the average household understands the consequences of not paying debt and spending money you don't have - you get a bad credit rating and then you can't buy even the things you need. They know the answer is not to keep spending or even cut back slightly. Unfortunately, the President has not gotten the memo. He doggedly refuses to seriously agree to spending cuts.

CNS News reported in late 2010 that "in the first 19 months of the Obama administration, the federal debt held by the public increased by $2.5260 trillion, which is more than the cumulative total of the national debt held by the public that was amassed by all U.S. presidents from George Washington through Ronald Reagan." That's a lot of money for one president to burden the public. Now he's trying to borrow more money and force our nation to go further into debt by advocating a debt ceiling increase without serious cuts in our spending.

That's why it’s important that the House passed the Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution (BBA). It is time for the nation to force accountability on our leaders and it is why the Senate needs to pass it as well.

Forty-five states have some sort of balanced-budget provision or stipulation in place that says they cannot spend more money than they take in, in most circumstances. Our federal government needs to do the same thing or our leaders in Washington will have to strike useless deals every year so that the government can just borrow more money without ever paying off the debt we currently owe.

A balanced budget amendment is where it needs to start. This kind of Constitutional amendment must be passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress and then be ratified by three-quarters of the states. Philosophically, conservatives and liberals are at an impasse when it comes to government spending but this is no longer about ideological views. This debate is about the very survival of our nation.

A balanced budget amendment increases certainty in the markets and facilitates job growth, which is desperately needed in this country. Our latest numbers of 9.2% unemployment show only part of the story. These figures represent the folks still looking, not the people on welfare or the ones that have taken a part-time job just get to off unemployment.

For both investors and employers, they see no end to the fiscal irresponsibility and spending that has gripped the nation and hence, are uncertain of their own future which leads to no one hiring because they cannot project any kind of growth. The constant threat of tax hikes coming from the White House further unnerves those who would like to expand their businesses. Coupled with uncertainty over the cost of health care under ObamaCare, employers are stuck treading water until Washington gets its act together.

The BBA isn't perfect but it's a good start.

Diana Furchtgott-Roth, an economist and adjunct fellow at the Manhattan Institute, said in a commentary piece that government cannot control itself when spending: "What we've seen since World War II is that the government is profligate and incapable of disciplining itself when it comes to spending. It writes laws that lead to increased spending over time without further congressional action, so-called entitlements such as Medicare and food stamps...Why wait until we lose our AAA credit rating? Some form of balanced budget amendment would improve the budget process and put spending on a lower path."

The Senate needs to follow the House’s lead and pass the balanced budget amendment now and help get our nation back on its feet and the states need to immediately ratify it. This will add a layer of much needed accountability to our national leaders. Washington has a massive spending addiction and they need to go cold turkey. Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee has a remedy in fact - Spenditol ( Take a dose of that Washington-made antidote and all your worries will disappear.

The President and Congress must follow the example of many of the families in America who understand that they cannot spend and borrow in endless rotation. It's time gentlemen, to put on your big boy pants and make the tough decisions about government spending. American families are with you.

Penny Nance is the President and CEO of Concerned Women for America.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Obama Owns the Debt-Ceiling Fiasco


President Barack Obama and Congress face a mess if the federal government hits the debt ceiling Aug. 2. The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank, projects that the government will receive $172 billion in revenues between Aug. 3 and Aug. 31, but it is on the hook to spend $306 billion, leaving a shortfall of $134 billion.

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama told Scott Pelley of CBS News that "there may simply not be the money in the coffers" to issue Social Security, veterans and disability checks after Aug. 3.

Not so. The $172 billion in revenues collected over the rest of the month can pay the $29 billion interest charges on the national debt, Social Security benefits ($49 billion), Medicaid and Medicare ($50 billion), active duty military pay ($2.9 billion), Department of Defense vendors ($31.7 billion), IRS refunds ($3.9 billion), and about a quarter of the $12.8 billion in unemployment checks due that month.

There will, however, be no cash for highway construction, no checks for federal workers or retirees, no agriculture payments, no open national parks. Interest rates are also likely to rise if U.S. debt is downgraded, adding massively to the deficit and further damaging the economy. This would be a disaster with no political winners.

The president wants a $2.4 trillion debt-ceiling increase to get him past next year's election—and the deal he's proposing is based on promised future cuts paired with substantial tax increases on households earning more than $250,000 a year.

House Speaker John Boehner proposed matching a debt-ceiling hike with substantial spending cuts. The Congressional Budget Office estimates federal spending at $46.1 trillion over the next 10 years, a dramatic escalation from projections before Mr. Obama took office. Mr. Boehner's modest proposal was to trim that back 5.2% over the decade, but the president balked.

Yet the $4 trillion in deficit reduction that Mr. Obama talks about is shy on details. No one who's attended his frequent negotiating sessions knows what his proposal really is.

The president has made a bipartisan agreement even more difficult by declaring certain spending off-limits to cuts. Mr. Obama's "untouchable" list includes his $1 trillion health-care reform, $128 billion in unspent stimulus funds, education and training outlays, his $53 billion high-speed rail proposal, spending on "green" jobs and student loans, and virtually any structural changes to entitlements except further squeezing payments to doctors, hospitals and health-care professionals.

Mr. Obama has offered no evidence since becoming president that he wants to restrain the upward trajectory of government spending. He does want higher taxes to pay for significantly higher federal spending. But he wants Republicans to deliver the tax increases, since Democrats couldn't pass them last year despite controlling both chambers of Congress.

Republicans have wisely declined. Demanding the GOP vote for immediate tax increases that would be offset by vague, future tax cuts conjures up images of Charlie Brown, Lucy and the football. The tax increases would be real—the future tax rate cuts would be imaginary. And Mr. Obama has opposed any serious spending enforcement mechanisms, such as a balanced budget amendment or hard caps on spending.

His tone also hasn't helped achieve a comprehensive agreement. The president's two most recent press conferences, in which he accused the GOP of foot-dragging, convinced Republicans that he was interested in scoring political points and attracting independents, not facilitating a deal. Convening high-profile White House meetings without offering substantive concrete proposals and then having his aides leak madly (and inaccurately) to the press afterward further squandered trust.

There's still time for a deal, but it could come after the Aug. 2 deadline, and after much damage has been done to America's financial standing. Then the key political question will become who gets the blame. By then, it should be obvious that the man who promised to transcend petty politics and legislative gridlock made things worse.

Washington is dysfunctional. And to paraphrase the president's senior adviser, David Plouffe, Mr. Obama owns the dysfunction. The president has not only governed as a liberal—he's governed as an incompetent liberal, thereby reminding voters that electing a Republican Congress and president next year is the only way to change direction.

Mr. Rove is the former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Happy 4th of July America!

July Fourth Is a Good Time to Tell Our Military, Thank You for Your Sacrifice

By Dan Gainor

To the Men and Women of the United States Military:

It’s the July Fourth weekend. Many of you are far from home in unpleasant places like Iraq and Afghanistan or off the coast of a hostile nation such as Libya. You are fighting at least three wars, and though bureaucrats don’t call it the war on terror anymore, you still fight that as well. Every day poses a risk, whether on the streets of Baghdad or on duty in Fort Hood, Texas.

At home, your loved ones are grilling, having a beer or playing Frisbee. Our tables are filled with plenty – not just today, but all days. Yes, many Americans struggle even in a good economy, but that fight is nothing like it is in the third world. This nation is still the land of opportunity because you help make it so.

Meanwhile, you eat, sleep, walk and talk Army, Navy, Air Force or Marines. You work long hours, ever alert for the one time something bad might happen. You eat what is available – whether it’s good chow or MREs (un-affectionately known as Meals Refusing to Exit.) Many of you have discovered what life is like on the beach – without the ocean to cool off. Sand is in your shoes, your clothes and even your food.

Yet you are there. You volunteered to be there. Every second you are there, you are doing your part to guard your family, your friends and your nation.

Still that nation and its military are increasingly separated. Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the 2011 West Point graduating class that civilians and military were growing apart. “I fear they do not know us,” he told them.

He was right. Those who serve and those who stay in civilian life often come from two separate worlds in this era of a volunteer military. And there is little that bridges the gap. Our media only cover the wars when it is convenient or it makes their side look good. Hollywood is worse, rarely repeating the patriotic films that once filled movie screens coast to coast. The military is not mocked as it was in the Vietnam era. It is too often simply ignored.

These thoughts are very important to me this holiday. I had the honor of visiting the U.S.S. George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) late last year as the newly operational carrier was getting shipshape. As I write this, the Bush and her crew are heading into their scheduled deployment to the U.S. 5th Fleet.

Heading into harm’s way as so many have done before. But this time, they are people I know, men and women who I talked to, ate with and whose struggles now seem all too personal.

These incredible men and women average a mere 19 years of age. Yet they command the most powerful weapon in the U.S. arsenal – a nuclear-powered carrier. And that weapon now goes to war. Even on the most powerful ship in the Navy, some may not come back.

So, to those who serve on the Bush or in other parts of our armed forces, I have only two things to say. First, you are not forgotten, not on this or any day.

We remember you each time a man or woman in uniform passes us on the street. We remember you every time we sit at a table with an empty chair and a friend or a coworker or loved one is in some far away land in uniform. We remember you every time we see the flag fly high over a capitol or stadium or when we sing the “Star Spangled Banner.” We remember you when we pray to God to keep each and every one of you safe. And we remember you when the world turns more terrifying and men and women go once more into combat, to protect us and the nation we hold dear.

And yes, we remember you when you come home. We greet you with open arms as you step off the plane or honor the fallen with funeral processions worthy of their sacrifice.

More than just remembering, we give thanks. We pay tribute to those who don’t just fight to protect us, but to those who give their last full measure of devotion and die fighting for us.

There are no words to say for something like that. How do you say thank you to a mother who just lost her oldest son in the mountains of Afghanistan? How do you tell a father how much you appreciate his daughter’s sacrifice, knowing full well this man will never have grandchildren to bounce on his knee? How do you show gratitude to a young husband or wife who will never hold their lost love ever again? How do you thank a child whose mommy or daddy will never comfort them or see them walk down the aisle?

There are no words in any language that could express those feelings. But we need to start trying. America has been fighting a war in Afghanistan for nearly 10 years and eight years in Iraq. Ten years is too long not to say how grateful we are for all you do. It’s time we start.

Thank you.

Dan Gainor is the Boone Pickens Fellow and the Media Research Center’s Vice President for Business and Culture.

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