Are you better off now……?

October 7, 2012 at 5:55 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Four years ago, this country was on the precipice of a second Great Depression. That’s an economic state where more than a quarter of the population is unemployed, half of all businesses close their doors, banks stop lending, and the government has to go into massive debt to keep the population from starving. It is a time when the majority of the country has to do without basic necessities. The only thing that got us out of the Great Depression was government spending on World War II.

Fortunately, the second Great Depression didn’t happen. In fact, less than three years after the recession bottomed out in 2009, the country has had a net gain in jobs relative to the jobs that had been lost. We have had 32 straight months of job growth in the private sector. The DOW has more than doubled, which has been good news to anyone with a 401K. We did NOT have to turn our auto industry over to foreign manufacturers two years ago, which saved more than a million jobs. Our exports are near record levels and we are less dependent on foreign oil than in the last 20 years. Home prices are finally headed up again. In Los Angeles, home values posted their highest gains in more than 6 years. Taxes have actually gone down since Obama took office, and more than 30 million people now have medical insurance who couldn’t get it before.

By any measure, the economy is trending upward.

Has it been fast enough? Of course not. You don’t recover from the loss of more than 50,000 factories (between 2000 and 2009) in just 3 years. New industries have to be generated. More people need new training for those jobs. It requires a national investment. The problem is, we now have the lowest rated, least productive, most obstructive Congress since the Civil War, whose primary objective has been to ensure that nothing President Obama proposes or supports passes or is adequately funded. It is politics of self-destruction.

Obama’s and Biden’s economic plan has been simple enough to grasp for anybody who has bothered to pay attention. The American Jobs Act was a great bill that would have been paid for while creating 3 million jobs. Guess who blocked it.

Undecided voters have no excuse. And no option.

Obama 2012 –– Because the alternative is UNTHINKABLE.

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What Romney and Ryan are really planning to do…

October 7, 2012 at 5:47 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

Both Romney and his running-mate have repeatedly stated that their intent is to cut taxes 20% for everybody who pays federal income tax. The cost of such a cut over a ten-year period is approximately $5 trillion, yet Romney now denies having ever said anything about this tax cut.

Both Romney and Ryan say that these cuts would be deficit neutral because, at the same time, their plan would eliminate certain unspecified loopholes and write-offs currently in the tax code. The problem is, even if they eliminated every single write-off, including charitable donations and home mortgage interest, it still wouldn’t come close to covering the cost of the $5 trillion tax cut.

HOWEVER, they also say that they would increase revenue by “broadening the tax base”. The only way to interpret this is that they intend to tax low and middle income families who, until now, have no earned enough to qualify for paying federal income tax. Therefore, their stated intent is to cut taxes on the wealthiest Americans and raise taxes on the middle class. You can’t get around that.

By the way, cutting taxes does NOT stimulate economic growth. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Low taxes encourage profit-taking. Periods of higher tax rates show more re-investment. Business owners take less profit out of their companies if they know they’re going to pay higher taxes on that income. In any case, the last eleven years has provided ample proof that tax cuts boost nothing but the wealth of the top 1% of the population. 93% of all gains in the economy over the last two years have accrued to that small group of highly fortunate people.

Romney has also stated numerous times that he wants to increase defense spending by a $1 trillion over the next ten years and $2 trillion over the next 20 years. He would also add more than 100,000 more personnel to the armed forces. He has vowed to do this despite the fact that the Pentagon has said it doesn’t need the additional people or extra money. Romney just wants to be seen as a pro-military leader by his right-wing base. It is a completely disingenuous position.

All that said, I also have doubts about President Obama’s debating skills (although I don’t know what that has to do with being President of the United States). I wish he had been more energetic and assertive in the debate. I also wish that he called Romney on all of his lies and half-truths. That was a major mistake.

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Paul Ryan’s Lies

October 7, 2012 at 5:36 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , )

Ryan’s speech was a well-written, well-executed pack of lies. This is the same guy who voted FOR every single one of George W. Bush’s big spending policies — both unfunded wars, all of the unpaid for tax cuts, the Medicare Part D boondoggle for Big Pharma, and TARP. Yet HE’S calling Obama a big government spender. (By the way, all of these policy decisions continue to contribute billions to the national debt every year. They didn’t just go away when George W. Bush left office).

Ryan stated that Obama took $716B out of Medicare and gave it “too someone else”. Two responses: First, Obama SAVED $716B in Medicare by eliminating waste and fraud, and discontinuing the tax-payer funded subsidies to private insurance companies that were “administering” the Medicare Advantage program; Second, Obama used that savings to close the drug “donut hole” for seniors and having wellness visits covered. Mr. Ryan’s plan also cuts $716B out of Medicare, but he uses that money to help pay for tax cuts for the wealthy.

Ryan’s plan, which Mitt Romney has embraced, gives seniors the “option” of using “premium support” (vouchers) to go out and buy their own insurance from private insurance companies. This assumes that seniors could even find an insurance company that would be willing to give them coverage when they are older and more likely to become ill or injured. If they could find such a company, it would cost them an average of $6500 out-of-pocket to get coverage equal to what they currently have with Medicare. Of course, just by offering this option, Ryan strangles an already threatened Medicare program by taking people out of the mandated system. The obvious objective here is to end Medicare for EVERYBODY.

Ryan also took a shot at Obama for walking away from the Simpson Bowles Commission. This remark was the height of hypocrisy as Ryan himself turned his back on the commission’s recommendation to reduce the debt in a balanced fashion by cutting spending AND increasing revenue by raising taxes. Obama walked away from it because he knew the House would NEVER pass it. Subsequently, Obama asked congressional leaders to form the Super Committee, which the Republicans in Congress agreed to follow and which they are now threatening to back out on.

Ryan’s entire speech was riddled with falsehoods and half-truths and it made me sick every time that audience cheered what it was hearing. These people are supposed to be well-educated, moderately well-informed adults, yet they were jubilant about the load of garbage Ryan was feeding them.

“A downgraded America.” Ryan blamed the president for the nation’s credit downgrade in August 2011 after Republicans threatened to allow the government to default on its debt for the first time in history. But the ratings agency explicitly blamed “Republicans saying that they refuse to accept any tax increases as part of a larger deal.”

“More debt than any other president before him, and more than all the troubled governments of Europe combined.” Romney has made the almost identical claim, that Obama has amassed more debt “as almost all of the other presidents combined.” But their mathdoesn’t add up: when Obama took office, the national debt was $10.626 trillion. It has increased to slightly above $15 trillion.

Shuttered General Motors plant is “one more broken promise.” Ryan described a GM plant that closed down in his hometown, Janesville, Wisconsin, and blamed Obama for breaking his promise to keep the plant open when he visited during his campaign. But Obama never made that promise, and the plant shut down in December 2008, before Obama even took office.

“The greatest of all responsibilities is that of the strong to protect the weak.” Ryan closed the speech with an invocation of social responsibility, saying, “The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” However, numerous clergy members have condemned Ryan’s budget plan as “cruel,” and “an immoral disaster” because of its devastating cuts in social programs the poor and sick rely on. Meanwhile, Ryan would giveultra-rich individuals and corporations $3 trillion in tax breaks.

Finally, the recent ad being run by the Romney/Ryan campaign asserts that President Obama took the job requirement out of the welfare reform law that was passed during the Clinton administration. It has been debunked by every fact checking organization on the net and several major newspapers, yet the RNC has doubled down and continues to run the TV spot. Clearly, the decision has been made by the RNC that lying is perfectly acceptable as long as it works. Unfortunately, it does appear to be working in a couple of crucial swing states. Again, this demonstrates a willingness by some people to believe any lie that is spoken against this president, no matter how blatant or disproven by facts.

Obama 2012 — Because the alternative is unthinkable.

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It’s time to outlaw lobbyists in Washington.

October 8, 2009 at 2:50 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )

As long as lobbying members of Congress is allowed, no member should be permitted to vote on a piece of legislation which has any connection to those that are lobbying him or her. This would obviously stem the flow of cash, free private jets, sexual favors and other perks which are currently provided to senators and representatives by various corporate and political interests in Washington in order to secure votes and vocal support. Unless we have this form of recusal, the concept of a representative government in Washington will be a fairy tale.

What we’ve witnessed over the last several months of debate over health care reform is ample evidence of how much this kind of change is needed. From Mitch McConnell to Max Baucus, we’ve witnessed the corporate takeover of the democratic process in the United States. Baucus, who has received more than $3.5 million from the insurance industry, is probably the most hypocritical of the lot, pretending to be for serious reform and calling himself a democrat, he voted against the public option in the Finance Committee. His reason, as stated following the vote, was that it was his responsibility to get a bill out of the committee which could pass in the Senate and he “just didn’t see the votes there for a public option”. In other words, the quality of the bill’s contents was less important to Baucus than its chances of winning approval. More importantly, he failed to mention that a majority of his own constituency favors the public option. Whom does Max Baucus represent?

Baucus’ bill contains the “mandate” which requires all citizens to obtain medical coverage, yet it does nothing to create effective price controls on the insurance industry. Those who cannot afford to pay their insurance premiums will receive tax credits to help them pay. In other words, in addition to giving the insurance industry millions of more customers by government mandate, Baucus would have tax-payers paying for those who can’t afford insurance. The best that Baucus’ Finance Committee could come up with after months of haggling is a windfall for the insurance industry that provides zero relief to citizens. What idiot could possibly support this obvious scam?

The leaders of the Republican Party in Congress, such as McConnell, Boehner and Canter, are all on the take from the private insurance industry, and the few members that are not being lobbied are too cowardly to stand up to them. Of course, there are also many democrats, such as Baucus, Childers and Lincoln, who are also enjoying the generosity of the insurance industry, but the majority of democrats are not and it shows in their votes in these committees.

If you’re a Republican who is against the public option or serious health care reform because you sincerely believe what we have is adequate, you need to ask yourself how you arrived at that conclusion. If you’re just having a knee-jerk, partisan reaction to any idea that a democrat comes up with, then you have a problem. Even worse, if you’re basing your opinion on information that has been spread by organizations like Americans for Prosperity you have a bigger problem because that so-called grass-roots group is a tool of the private insurance industry, which has a vested interested in the status quo and discrediting any kind of reform.

The private insurance industry has 6 lobbyists in Washington for every representative and senator and it is now spending nearly $2 MILLION PER DAY to undermine attempts to fix our broken, soon-to-collapse health care system. In the last 6 months, it has spent more than $390 million to convince voters that the government wants to take over health care and euthanize the elderly. This is the most money that has ever been spent on influence-peddling in the history of the United States. If you believe any of those lies, either you hate President Obama to the point of being self-destructive, or you are simply too ignorant to understand what is being proposed. Either way, you have become a willing tool of corporate fascists who are in control of one of the few business sectors that has continued to see profits grow despite a severe global recession.

At the end of the day, the power of lobbyists in Washington is about as unAmerican and anti-democratic as anything Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler tried to do. It has become abundantly clear over the last few months that real change in ANY AREA will never be possible as long as our elected representatives are in the pockets of corrupt, for-profit industries which do not have the interests of the American people at heart.

And don’t expect any tort reform while the Democratic Party is in the back pocket of the Trial Lawyers.

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This is a sad time for American politics

September 4, 2009 at 7:17 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

For the first time in the history of our nation, the President of the United States is being attacked for speaking to children in our schools. He is being accused of trying to indoctrinate kids with socialist ideals and saying things that might contradict what their parents are teaching them. I hope he does. Because the ideals that these children must be learning from those parents is totally inconsistent with our nation’s way of life. To suggest, so that children can hear, that the President is an evil man with an unAmerican agenda, is the essence of fascism. The Republican Party has been co-opted by extremists who have intimidated moderates and tried to undermine the country’s confidence in its government. With each day that passes, they go a step closer to treason. Their words and actions have been a far greater threat to our democracy than any 1950’s communist conspiracy ever was. At bottom of this pit of seething hatred is a core of bigotry that seeks to undo all of the progress this country has made over the last half century.

How do you combat this kind of bellicose prejudice without slipping into the same mire of angry name-calling and unproductive vitriole? We’re getting closer and closer to the point where it doesn’t really matter. The sad fact is that a significant percentage of our population, either through ignorance, or a history of racial prejudice, would rather bring down the whole country before they would allow a black president to have any kind of political victory. These people cluster in their blogs of like-minded zealots, feeding each other rumors and half-truths, then re-enforcing their validity. There is absolutely zero willingness to even consider an opposing view. It is horrifying to see.

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This is a must-see for every American who is interested in health care reform.

August 25, 2009 at 9:05 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Here is a very enlightening video about Canadian health care and how it has been portrayed by opponents of health care reform in the U.S. Every American should watch this before they arrive at any conclusions about who is on the right side of this issue:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXXBCFnhsUc

The statement in this video that is most shocking is the statistic that 31¢ out of every $1 that is spent on health care in this country goes to “administrative costs”. The amount of waste in our system is positively ghastly.

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What’s eating the GOP? Rush Limbaugh.

March 5, 2009 at 5:19 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

While it’s become politically incorrect, most of us remember the old story about the natives and missionaries. The missionaries invariably end up cooking in a Jacuzzi-sized stew pot atop a blazing fire as the natives set the table for dinner. Today, we have the leadership of the Republican Party sitting in a similar pot, only this time it isn’t hungry natives stirring up the stew. It’s Rush Limbaugh. Whether the base of the Republican Party realizes it or not, the well-fed Limbaugh is gleefully devouring his own kind. Because, as long as respected, influential Republicans cower in the corpulent talkshow host’s sizable shadow, the party is going to remain in disarray and no Republican is going to win another national election. In case they hadn’t noticed, voters in the last two elections have roundly rejected the strident ideology of the GOP, and Mr. Limbaugh is the archetypal right-wing ideologue. Belligerent, verbose, vitriolic and astonishingly arrogant, he is the de facto Chief of the conservative movement in this country and the epitome of everything that a growing majority of voters have reviled.

How bad are things for the Republican Party? The Wall Street Journal, not exactly an enemy of the RNC, printed the results of a recent and devastating survey of voters. Apparently, 26% of voters have a mildly positive opinion of the GOP, and only 7% are significantly positive about it. Now, add the porcine pariah of airwaves and you have a perfect storm of loathing.

If you’re a Democrat, the most ill-advised thing you could do is jump into that pot. But that’s what has been happening. Too many Democratic officials, including members of the Obama administration, have already put one leg into the boiling stew by making statements about Limbaugh, thereby enhancing his appeal to the Republican Party and validating his popularity with its base. In the process of doing this, they are creating even more friction in Congress, assuring increased obstructionism by a desperate political party with no responsible leadership. The latest example of Democrats jumping into the pot is this “I’m sorry, Rush” website, which is one of the most juvenile political gags in recent memory. The people who came up with that one are no better than the Republicans they’ve been criticizing. And every time Rush gets one of those e-apologies, he lights up another $100 cigar and swallows another jelly donut.

It’s time for politicians on both sides of the aisle to realize that this corpulent, strutting demagogue is exploiting them all for his own self-aggrandizement. Limbaugh has been at this for the last 35 years. He wants to be a celebrity. He desperately covets admiration and power– almost as much as he hankers for those jelly donuts. Why anybody, especially the DCCC, keeps focusing a big spotlight on this human caricature is short-sighted at best. Why do key Republicans allow this radio personality to keep his pudgy-fingered grip on their party and their platform, knowing that he is one of the most unpopular people in the country? Why do Democratic officials and pundits keep giving him free air-time, when they know that will only result in boosting his already bloated ratings?

Leave Rush Limbaugh alone. He can stir that big pot just fine all by himself and, by the time he’s finished, all that will be left of the Republican Party is a few sun-bleached elephant tusks. (From the look of him the other night at CPAC, he’s already swallowed a few congressmen). In the end, he will be like the character in Monty Python’s “The Meaning of Life”. He will nibble at that last “wafer-thin mint”, then explode, sending out lethal shrapnel of Big Macs, Whoppers, milkshakes and buffalo wings. Stand close to that pot at your own risk.

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Which stimulates the economy: tax cuts or spending?

February 20, 2009 at 5:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , )

Here’s what one of the biggest tax cuts in U.S. history is going to do: A single person making less than $75,000 a year will take home an additional $400 per year under the federal plan passed by Congress, and a couple making less than $150,000 would get $800. This means that the average American will take home an extra $25 in each paycheck. Anybody who thinks this is the sort of “stimulation” that will pull our economy out of its vertical nose-dive is either nuts or being held hostage by their own ideology. Basically, when Obama agreed to add in more tax cuts in order to gain Republican support for the bill (which he never got), he was taking much needed tax revenue from the Treasury and decreasing the amount he was spending on the infrastructure. That is the portion of the bill that will go to repairing our Third World-like infrastructure, including bridges, highways and schools and, in the process, create millions of jobs in the private sector. Government workers will not be doing that work. These will be citizens who would be out of work, not paying taxes, and on government assistance without the program.

Some may recall that last year the government sent out fat rebate checks to tax payers. Families got nearly twice what the tax cuts will net them. Those rebates did NOT go back into the economy, as the wishful thinkers in the Bush administration predicted. For all intents and purposes, the money may as well have been flushed down the toilet because it had no detectable impact on the economy. None.

There are many people who believe with all their heart that giving big tax breaks to corporations and the wealthy will result in expansion of businesses and more jobs. It’s a good theory, but it isn’t borne out by the facts. If anything, we’ve seen in the last 8 years that major corporations taking advantage of de-regulation and tax breaks have chosen to do exactly the opposite by laying off workers, restructuring, moving off-shore, and paying exorbitant bonuses to executives. In the meantime, over the last 15 years wages in the private sector have not gone up. It has been as if we were all background characters in Oliver Stone’s film, “Wall Street”. But, at least Gordon Gecko was good at what he did. The people running our big corporations, especially in the auto industry, do not appear to be cut from the same cloth as Lee Iococca. The Peter Principle is in full swing in corporate America.

The bottom line is that the ideology of the Republican Party, which is that government cannot be a solution to our biggest problems, ignores the severity of our predicament while showing zero compassion for those who are suffering most in this downturn. I don’t think they actually believe tax cuts will do anything more than give them a campaign slogan in the next election. It’s what they’re against that counts here. They honestly believe that the private sector can police itself and make the right decisions for America. They think that making the rich richer will ultimately raise up the bottom 95% of the country because rich people are the heart and soul of our economy (forget that wages haven’t gone up in this country for the last 15 years). They harp on the concept that only the private sector can create real wealth, when the country’s economy has just struck an iceberg. To clarify the situation for them, the stimulus bill was never intended to create wealth. It is intended to keep our nation afloat. A very small percentage of the population is worried about creating wealth right now. The rest of us are going to remember the way the Republican Party has handled this process.

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Bi-Partisanship: It Was a Nice Idea, But…

February 14, 2009 at 5:41 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , )

It was a pleasant dream, but still just a dream. That members of the House and Senate would work together, setting aside their ideologies and petty projects so they could do what was right for the country instead of voting along party lines or pandering to local constituencies and friendly lobbyists. When Judd Gregg withdrew his name from the nomination for Commerce Secretary, it signaled the GOP’s absolute unwillingness to work with anybody who has an opposing point of view. He didn’t withdraw because he suddenly realized that he and President Obama have different economic philosophies. Obama has talked openly about the need for a big stimulus package since long before January 20th. After having pursued the job by querying Obama staffers about a position in the Cabinet, he pulled out because he was being leaned on by the RNC, which smells blood in the water. Its own blood. Gregg turned down a big pay-raise and a prestigious seat in the Presidential Cabinet because he was being treated like a traitor and threatened by his fellow Republicans. The man is a coelenterate. The Party has no conscience.

The Republican Party is in the process of forming a circular firing squad. Unfortunately, the middle class is sitting right in the middle of that cross-fire. Nobel Prize-winning economists were lining up to support the stimulus package, with some even saying it was too small, yet the GOP financial wizards who were responsible for getting us into this debacle were predicting the doom of capitalism and rise of socialism if the bill was signed into law. These are many of the same people who supported Phil Graham’s legislation back in 1999 which all but eliminated any regulation of the banking industry. These were the same “free marketers” who insisted that corporations would always do the right thing. Then ENRON collapsed. These are the intellectual giants who presided over a national debt that went from a billion dollar surplus to trillions of dollars in the red in a matter of six short years. Did a few democrats enable some of that behavior? Of course, but the fiscal policies of the Bush Administration and the anti-regulation ideology of the Republican Party built the foundation of sand upon which our economy was expanding.

Hopefully, Obama has learned a sad, yet important lesson in the last month. He must realize by now that the Republican party is driven exclusively by ideology, rather than by pragmatic reasoning. When he hears United States senators apologizing to a radio talkshow host for criticizing his “I hope Obama fails” remark, Obama must know that he is dealing with people who are bent on obstructing anything that he tries to do, regardless of how much damage it might to do the country. He’s dealing with ideologues who think that tax cuts alone will save the economy from catastrophe, even though a study of the last tax cut showed that it had no measurable impact on the economy. He’s dealing with people who led the charge for last year’s government hand-out, which failed to do anything for the people who received those checks in the mail. He’s dealing with people who are looking for their next campaign slogan, rather than useful solutions to the terrible problems we face.

Obama will always be a civil negotiator. That’s his nature. He appears to be a guy who rarely if ever loses his cool. But he needs to take the gloves off and make it clear to the American people what he is dealing with on Capitol Hill. Between now and 2012, the GOP’s circular firing squad will lock and load, and the Republican Party will, for all intents and purposes, cease to exist as a viable national party. We can only hope that it won’t succeed in taking the middle class with it.

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Is the stimulus package “pork”?

February 10, 2009 at 4:16 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , )

In terms of dollars spent, perhaps 1% of the proposed stimulus package fell into the category of ‘pet projects’ that some House democrats wanted to piggy-back onto the bill. Nancy Pelosi has to accept responsibility for allowing that foolishness–she seems a little drunk with power now days and Obama needs to take her to the woodshed and explain that her arrogance is sabotaging a lot of the good will his election generated for the Democratic Party.* But most of the things that GOP wanted cut from the House and Senate bills were smart, multi-purpose solutions that would have created jobs and, at the same time, kept several states from going bankrupt. The cuts in education are particularly difficult to understand, given that they would have generated jobs and, at the same time, improved the quality of our children’s education. That and many other useful items were cut from the Senate bill because the GOP chose to play a dangerous game of chicken with the Obama administration, holding the bill hostage while demanding a ransom of tax cuts and less spending.

Here is the sad fact about tax cuts: they’re a joke for 95% of us.

Tax cuts routinely add up to a net increase of just a few dollars per paycheck, in the process of depleting an already anemic Treasury. The stimulating effect of tax cuts on the national economy is virtually undetectable. But, what Republicans are looking for here isn’t an actual solution to the economic free-fall we’re in anyway. They just want a campaign slogan for the next election. Their ideology, rather than any expertise in economics, tells them that the marketplace has to go through these “cycles” now and then, and that the government should do nothing. The reason for this is because the “government” is evil and, therefore, anything it does will only make things worse. Again, this is an ideological, rather than economic point of view. The vast majority of people with advanced degrees in economics couldn’t disagree with it more.

A lot of people are very angry about the way the GOP has held the stimulus package hostage, forcing the administration to cut much needed items that would have created jobs and repaired our crumbling infrastructure. States are cutting essential services, and California isn’t even sending out tax refunds for the first time in the state’s history. The argument that tax cuts are going to pull us out of this vertical nose-dive is sheer idiocy. And, leading that debate is a solemn-faced John McCain, having graduated 895th in his Naval Academy class of 899 midshipmen with zero understanding of economics. This intellectual giant has recently announced that President Obama’s stimulus package is just a big spending bill which he cannot support. The man is marching like a lemming toward the edge of a cliff, along with the rest of his party.

In the next election, the GOP is going to be eliminated as viable national political party. We can only hope that their short-sighted, self-serving ideology doesn’t drag the country into a Depression before that happens.

*NOTE: I have recently been accused by some language nazis that my “woodshed” remark here is sexist and that it represents an implied endorsement of violence against women. ‘Taking someone to the woodshed’ is a common metaphor that is gender neutral. Now, if I had said that Obama should take Nancy Pelosi to the Lincoln Bedroom, they might have had a point.

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