December 16, 2007

What eriposte said

If you read nothing else about Hillary...

Read this essay at The Left Coaster explaining why, after vowing to withhold support from any single candidate, eriposte has decided to support Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. eriposte has done his/her homework and is a serious student of all the candidates, and did not come to this endorsement lightly or easily.

December 14, 2007

Yesterday's debate

FactCheck.org's take on the claims made during the debate.

I missed the debate since it was on during the day and have not had an opportunity to watch the replays, but I have heard the "buzz" about Barack Obama's quip about him looking forward to Hillary Clinton advising him. It got quite a chuckle out of everyone, and rightly so. It was a joke. But, let's be real here, if Hillary had said that to Obama, don't you think that old "she thinks she's got this sewn up" meme would have been a full-throated roar?

Just saying...sauce for the goose and all.

December 8, 2007

"I'm neither as good nor as bad as my supporters and detractors probably think."

Nice interview. You have to get nearly to the end of the interview for Hillary's comment noted above. I really do like her. For those of you who've known me for years, that has come as a surprise to many, most especially me. Do I think she's perfect? No. But do I think she is the best person for the job at this time in our history? You betcha.

On Edit: Wow! I made it to HillaryHub! Welcome to all of you who are stopping by and wish to leave a comment, but let's keep the comments positive.

I just deleted a comment that contained a smear about a current candidate. I won't have smears, innuendo or false stories spread on my blog.

Where we really need "don't ask, don't tell"

I've been thinking about Mitt Romney's "Mormon" speech for a couple of days and finally got around to reading it yesterday afternoon. Up until then I only knew about bits and pieces of it repeated on the blogs, the radio and television. It was worse than I imagined. Touted as the "new" JFK speech (text of JFK's speech), it was nothing of the kind.

This New York Times OpEd says it very well:

Mr. Romney tried to cloak himself in the memory of John F. Kennedy, who had to defend his Catholicism in the 1960 campaign. But Mr. Kennedy had the moral courage to do so in front of an audience of Southern Baptist leaders and to declare: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.”

Mr. Romney did not even come close to that in his speech, at the George Bush Presidential Library in Texas, before a carefully selected crowd. And in his speech, he courted the most religiously intolerant sector of American political life by buying into the myths at the heart of the “cultural war,” so eagerly embraced by the extreme right.

Mr. Romney filled his speech with the first myth — that the nation’s founders, rather than seeking to protect all faiths, sought to imbue the United States with Christian orthodoxy. He cited the Declaration of Independence’s reference to “the creator” endowing all men with unalienable rights and the founders’ proclaiming not just their belief in God, but their belief that God’s hand guided the American revolutionaries.

[...]

The other myth permeating the debate over religion is that it is a dispute between those who believe religion has a place in public life and those who advocate, as Mr. Romney put it, “the elimination of religion from the public square.” That same nonsense is trotted out every time a court rules that the Ten Commandments may not be displayed in a government building.

We believe democracy cannot exist without separation of church and state, not that public displays of faith are anathema. We believe, as did the founding fathers, that no specific religion should be elevated above all others by the government.

The authors of the Constitution knew that requiring specific declarations of religious belief (like Mr. Romney saying he believes Jesus was the son of God) is a step toward imposing that belief on all Americans. That is why they wrote in Article VI that “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.”

And yet, religious testing has gained strength in the last few elections.
What part of “no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States” is unclear? No employer in the country is allowed to ask a prospective employee about their religious faith. Why do we allow this of our candidates? This is the world's most important job interview and we are stuck on whether or not someone is "religious" enough? Why do the media and the candidates go along? Can't a candidate respectfully decline to answer the question by saying, "This is a country founded on religious freedom and our founders were wise enough to enshrine in our Constitution a law that says "no religious test shall ever be required for public office." Therefore, with all due respect, I will not answer any questions about my religious faith, nor will I cite my religious faith as a qualification for office."

As one of about 10% of the US population who has no god belief, where was I in Mitt Romney speech? He kept using the all inclusive "we" to describe a nation that
"...believe[s] that every single human being is a child of God."
No, I don't. And:
Americans acknowledge that liberty is a gift of God, not an indulgence of government.
No, it isn't one or the other. It's an inalienable right! And:
You can be certain of this: Any believer in religious freedom, any person who has knelt in prayer to the Almighty, has a friend and ally in me. And so it is for hundreds of millions of our countrymen: We do not insist on a single strain of religion — rather, we welcome our nation's symphony of faith.
And if I don't play any "faith" instrument? Where do I fit into Mitt Romney's America?

December 1, 2007

Not a dirty word

Matt Iglesias comes up with one of the best definitions of "politics" that I've ever seen. In the context of solving the global warming crisis he writes:

Meanwhile, both whatever degree of climate change can't be prevented and whatever prevention measures we adopt will all have different kinds of costs and benefits. Different policies will allocate these costs to different people. The mechanism by which we decide what to do is called "politics" and it exists so that individuals and organizations with somewhat divergent interests and ideas can make collective decisions about how to tackle common problems. The rhetoric of anti-politics isn't just an analytic mistake, it's part of the problem. A public that doesn't believe divergent interests can be reconciled and common solutions devised for common problems -- a public that doesn't believe in politics -- is going to be a public that doesn't believe there's anything that can or should be done to prevent catastrophic climate change.
Substitute whatever issue you want for "climate change" and that's really what this is all about. Hat tip to Atrios.

What REAL bipartisanship looks like

Isn't it amazing what negotiation and compromise can do? This bill may not be perfect, (no legislation ever is) but it moves us closer to goals of energy efficiency, works at saving jobs, creates new ones, and at first blush, looks pretty good. We'll see how it all shakes out after it gets to the Senate.

Congressional negotiators reached a deal late Friday on energy legislation that would force American automakers to improve the fuel efficiency of their cars and light trucks by 40 percent by 2020.

[...]

Ms. Pelosi called the compromise on mileage “an historic advancement in our efforts in the Congress to address our energy security and laying strong groundwork for climate legislation next year.” She said that she was confident it would win the backing of environmentalists, auto makers and labor and would clear Congress by the end of this year.

Mr. Dingell, in a statement, called the new mileage standard “aggressive and attainable.”

“After weeks of productive discussion and negotiation, we have achieved consensus on several provisions that provide critical environmental safeguards without jeopardizing American jobs,” he said. Critical to his agreement, he said, were incentives to the American auto industry for producing small cars in the United States and cars that run on a combination of gasoline and ethanol.

[...]

The package nearly fell apart this week when Mr. Dingell insisted on leaving sole authority to regulate automobile mileage standards with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an arm of the Transportation Department. That would have weakened the power of the Environmental Protection Agency and the states, led by California, to regulate auto emissions of carbon dioxide, which are in large measure a function of the amount of fuel burned.

[...]

Mrs. Pelosi and Democratic leaders in the Senate rejected Mr. Dingell’s preemption effort, but softened the blow by agreeing to allow the car companies to retain a credit for vehicles capable of running on a blend of gasoline and ethanol. That credit was set to expire in 2008 but now will begin to decline in 2014 and be eliminated entirely by 2020. (NYT)

Penny wise but pound foolish? You betcha

Mothers Skimp as States Take Child Support (NYT)

The collection of child support from absent fathers is failing to help many of the poorest families, in part because the government uses fathers’ payments largely to recoup welfare costs rather than passing on the money to mothers and children.

Close to half the states pass along none of collected child support to families on welfare, while most others pay only $50 a month to a custodial parent, usually the mother, even though the father may be paying hundreds of dollars each month.

Critics say using child support to repay welfare costs harms children instead of helping them, contradicting the national goal of strengthening families, and is a flaw in the generally lauded national campaign to increase collections.

[...]

Reflecting a growing, bipartisan sense that diverting child support money to government coffers is counterproductive, Congress, in the Deficit Reduction Act passed in early 2006, took a modest step toward change. Beginning in 2009, states will be permitted to pass along up to $100 for one child and $200 for two or more children, with the state and federal governments giving up a share of welfare repayments they have received in the past.

The Bush administration has set a goal of increasing the share of collections distributed to families and reducing the amount retained by the government. But the drive to reduce the budget deficit has gotten in the way. As part of last-minute budget crunching, the Republican-controlled Congress in that same act reduced by 20 percent the child-support enforcement money it gives to the states, starting this fall. Many states say the effort to force them to pay more of the enforcement costs will impede collections and prevent them from passing more money on to needy families.
As we've seen in the past, the Republican Party hates any government program that works, that is: benefits average Americans (as is the case with Social Security, Medicare, Pell Grants, etc). It really messes with their mantra that "government is the problem" and that the "free market" can solve anything.
On Nov. 15, 24 governors from both parties sent a letter to Congress asking it to repeal the cuts, arguing that they would hurt one of the government’s most cost-effective programs, which raises more than $4 in child support for every $1 spent on enforcement.

[...]

When Congress set up the current child support system in the 1970s, recovering welfare costs was an explicit goal, with some experts arguing that it was only fair for fathers to repay the government for sustaining their offspring and that giving families the money was a form of “double dipping.” But experience and research have suggested to most experts and state and federal officials from both parties that the policy is counterproductive — driving fathers into the underground economy and leaving families more dependent on aid.

[...]

Studies of the Wisconsin experiment showed that when support payments were fully passed along to mothers, more fathers came forward and paid more of the support they owed, said Maria Cancian, director of the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. As families receive more support money, they are less apt to require public assistance, she and other experts say, making up for any short-term loss of revenues. And fathers are more likely to establish lasting patterns of payment and connection with their children, Ms. Cancian said.
I'd call this a win-win, wouldn't you?

I know of at least one Democratic candidate who is addressing this issue specifically. From the fact sheet on her Youth Opportunity Agenda, Hillary Clinton proposes:
To support both responsible fatherhood and economic opportunity, Hillary will:
  • Reverse the Bush Administration's Deep Cuts to the Child Support Enforcement Budget: The Bush Administration's cuts would reduce child support payments by $11 billion over the next decade. Hillary will reverse these cuts, and make sure that states and counties have the resources they need to collect child support. This is a wise investment: every dollar spent on child support returns $4.58 in child support payments. Hillary will also encourage states to take more realistic, cooperative approaches to managing arrears, so that fathers leaving prison are not immediately saddled with unrealistic payment obligations.

  • Promote Policies to Ensure that Every Dollar of Child Support that Fathers Pay is Passed on Directly to their Children: Research demonstrates that fathers pay more of their child support and develop deeper bonds with their children if they know that those payments are going directly to their children. Hillary will work with states and counties to ensure that they have support and incentives to pass on every dollar of child support to benefit children. This reform will increase child support payments and result in substantial administrative savings.

  • Make Work Pay for Responsible Fathers by Expanding the EITC: While the EITC is widely seen as one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in the US, single workers and non-custodial parents currently receive only a modest maximum credit of $412. As a result, single workers and non-custodial fathers -- many of whom face substantial child support obligations -- have only a weak incentive to work through the EITC. In addition, because the credit is available only to those over age 25, it does not provide a work incentive to many young minority men and fathers who face the steepest barriers to participate in the labor market. Hillary will triple the size of the EITC benefit for single workers, providing more than 4 million people a pro-work tax cut averaging $750.