Thursday, May 26, 2011

The National Debt Limit

Here in America, ours is a two-party system, with voters having a choice of Democrats or Republicans in major elections.

To be sure, there are occasions when third-party candidates compete, but they are seldom successful, and overall they usually have little impact.

Through recent history, we have elected Presidents who ran as Democrats, and we have elected Presidents who ran as Republicans. We have sometimes given Democrats a majority, and control in Congress; and sometimes we have given the reins to Republicans.

Through it all--the years and the issues--neither party has been completely right all of the time. Both parties have made their share of mistakes.

We mention this sharing of the successes and failures of our government to stress that this column is not anti the Republican party. It's about something that Republican leaders are now doing that I believe is just plain wrong.

The United States Congress needs to raise the national debt limit. Republicans are blocking this necessary move. If Congress does not act to raise the debt ceiling, our nation will find itself in default.

Yes, the national debt must be controlled--and lowered. And yes, we must increase revenue, and/or reduce spending, so as to see a not-too-distant return to the balanced budgets of the late 90s.

But meanwhile, to stand in the way of a necessary raising of the debt ceiling is to risk weakening our country, and quite possibly throwing us into another worldwide recession.

Republican leaders insist on deep spending cuts in next year's federal budget before they will acquiesce to increasing the debt limit. Those deep cuts include the dismantling of medicare.

At the same time, Republican leaders want to give another, additional batch of tax breaks to the super rich; while balking at the curtailing of tax breaks enjoyed by the big oil companies.

The Republican stance on raising the national debt limit borders on the incredible, since it is the Republican sponsored tax breaks that were given to the wealthiest of Americans a decade ago, and the launching of an unnecessary war on a Republican President's watch. that are, in large part, responsible for our country's current monetary mess.

Yes, it's time to reduce spending, and to come up with a reasonable, realistic federal budget, and yes it's past time to trim the national debt. But it's also time to get real and raise the debt limit. It's no time for another game of political chicken,

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Civility In Presidential Politics

Jon Huntsman, twice elected Governor of Utah, and more recently U.S. Ambassador to China, is expected by many to enter the race for the Republican nomination for President--perhaps as early as Monday.

Mr. Huntsman would be a most interesting and viable candidate. Though he lacks, at the moment, national name recognition, and though he views some issues differently than many Republican leaders, he has an impressive resume, and he is considered by most people of importance to be a class act.

It is also noteworthy that Huntsman lacks something that most other Repuplican hopefuls have too much of--baggage. The quiet calm that follows the mention of his candidacy would seem to indicate that there are no skeletons rattling around in his closet.

Should Jon Huntsman succeed in securing his party's nomination, I see a major benefit for all Americans--regardless of their political persuasion. If it's Huntsman versus Obama in 2012, I see a very real possibility of a return to civility in Presidential politics.

There are, for sure, differences of opinion on the important issues of the day, and these would be strongly stated in a Presidential campaign. I believe, however, that both President Obama and Jon Hunstman would take the high road throughout, and that America would have a debate relatively free of the ranting, raving, rancor--and distortion of the truth that has been so prevalent in recent elections.

President Obama, the Democrat, chose Jon Huntsman, the Republican, for the critical post of Ambassador to China. And Huntsman, even while on the verge of seeking the nomination to oppose Barack Obama a year and a half from now, said just a few days ago that he would gladly serve this sitting President again.

There is a lot of respect and personal regard on both sides, and respect and personal regard are conducive to civility.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Why Are Married Couples Staying Together Longer?

The Washington Post has directed attention to some interesting marital statistics reported by the U.S. Census Bureau. Perhaps the most important, and best news is that married couples are staying together longer.

Approximately 75 percent of married couples who tied the knot after 1990 have made it through a decade of life together. The report offers no insight into the degree of marital bliss enjoyed by those couples after 10 years; but whatever the state of their relationship, they have remained married.

That rate of success is somewhat better than the rate for couples who married prior to 1990, and that rate is much better than it is for those who married in the early 80s, when America's divorce rate was at an all-time high.

At present, one third of all American adults never marry at all. Among those who do marry, 40 percent eventually divorce.

The Washington Post article, and the Census report have been the subject of discussion on CNN. The talk there revolved around a very good question. Why are married couples staying together longer?

Among the reasons given was the fact that couples are marrying later in life, and it was suggested that being more mature, and perhaps more financially stable lessened the likelihood of divorce.

In discussing the Census report, the Washington Post article, and the CNN coverage with a friend of this column yesterday, I heard another point of view.

As to why married couples are staying together longer, my friend offered a James Carville quote: "It's the economy, stupid". The thinking here is that due to the great recession, two incomes are now required to get by. Couples are staying together longer simply because they can not afford to get divorced.

As for couples staying married longer because, by marrying later in life, they are more mature; that arguement is rebutted by the fact that baby boomers, who are certainly mature, now have a rate of divorce that is higher than other age groups.

After further thought, I have come up with another possibility that I like to think is the real reason that married couples are staying together longer. Could it be that those who are now choosing marriage are more understanding, more caring, and more determined to succeed? Could it be that true love is, more than ever, alive and well?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Medicare Mistake

(Editor's Note: Last week a technical problem at caused the disappearance of material that had been posted by a number of bloggers. We are one of those who had a blog disappear shortly after it was posted; and so we are publishing that column, "The Medicare Mistake" again today.)

The words "medicare mistake" don't mean the same thing to all people.

There are some folks who see these words as an apt description of what they view as the misguided actions of President Lyndon Johnson and Congress, way back in the 60s, when medicare became the law of the land. They are determined to correct "the medicare mistake".

In addition to abolishing medicare, they would also eliminate social security, as we now know it, if they could.

In recent weeks, however, the words "medicare mistake" have come to mean something else. They are being used to describe a mistake in judgment by members of Congress who mistakenly thought that the time was right, and the country was ready to dismantle medicare.

Rep. Paul Ryan, Chairman of the House Budget Committee, laid out a budget proposal for the next fiscal year that virtually eliminates medicare, while giving additional tax breaks to the super rich.

There was immediate opposition to the plan from experts that included the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and Paul Krugman, winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize In Economics.

But the biggest push back came from public opinion. During the recent Congressional recess, lawmakers who had supported Ryan's destruction of medicare faced hostile constituents at town hall meetings.

One angry lady told her Congressman that when she voted for him she had no idea she was signing on to see her medicare benefits taken away. That, she added, was never mentioned during the campaign.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Is Driving 85 Miles Per Hour A Good Idea?

I don't recall when or where I first heard the oft-repeated idea that, in America, we have the right to do just about anything--as long as it doesn't adversely affect anyone else.

That's the talk coming from deep in the heart of Texas as politicos there seek to sell a higher speed limit. Legislators cite the extraordinary size of their state as reason enough to enable Texans to travel faster from one point to another.

The speed limit on newly constructed highways would be 85 mph. The speed limit on many roadways is already 80 mph. The current nightime speed limit of 65 mph would be eliminated, allowing drivers the "freedom" to cruise along at least 80 mph 24 hours a day.

But would giving drivers the right--the freedom--to travel at higher speeds adversely affect anyone else? Yes, in fact, it would.

Higher speeds require more energy--more gas. And if other states, as expected, follow the Texas lead, we, as a nation, would use more gas--a lot more. This increase in consumption could ultimately affect gasoline prices--and the pocketbooks of all motorists--those who drive at moderate speeds as well as those who put the pedal to the metal.

More important is the proven fact that higher speeds always produce a higher number of accident fatalities. Having spent a lot of time on our nation's highways during my Greyhound days, I cringe at the thought of those drivers who weave in and out of traffic doing so at 80 or 85 mph.

I would suggest to the powers that be in Texas that--instead of encouraging motorists to speed from point A to point B--they encourage motorists to leave a little earlier--so as to travel a lot safer.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Osama bin Laden And The Sixth Commandment

The complete story of the killing of Osama bin Laden is not yet fully known by the general public, and it is likely that all of the pertinent details will never be divulged. Meanwhile, there are questions that will remain in the minds of many.

Was bin Laden defenseless when he was shot? Was the intent of the mission to kill, and not to capture? Was the action taken the right thing to do? I believe that the answers are yes, yes, and yes.

We are told that bin Laden was unarmed, but that he was still a threat; and that it was thought he was going to resist capture. That vague account of the confrontation would seem to make "defenseless" the appropriate word.

I believe that the intent of the mission was to kill--not capture--Osama bin Laden. That's because capture and prosecution was not a viable option; which brings us to the most important question--"Was killing Osama bin Laden the right thing to do?" And yes, it was.

There are those who would remind me that the Sixth Commandment says, "Thou shalt not kill". And those ages-old words from God speak of a rule we all want to follow.
What resonable person would ever want to take another human life?

But there are exceptions to all rules--including one as solemn as The Sixth Commandment, and even many Biblical scholars offer passages that make allowance for exceptions.

And there is much surrounding the bin Laden situation that makes killing him a justifiable exception. First and foremost, it can be argued that his death will save countless lives.

If the man, who was behind 9/11, and who inspires terrorists worldwide, was in custody today, and was prosecuted "tomorrow", he would have a platform to speak out against America, and be living encouragement for future attacks. We would feel no safer than when bin Laden's whereabouts was unknown.

It is not beyond the realm of possibility for a scenario to develop whereby people--perhaps on a bus, or in a building--are taken hostage as a bargaining chip to free bin Laden, or prevent the death penalty.

It is important to remember that in the case of Osama bin Laden, there is no question of guilt. Those videos he made, and released to taunt America, are indisputable evidence. There is no tribunal or jury which would reach any verdict other than guilty.

By removing Osama bin Laden as they did, America's leaders saved millions of dollars, and perhaps many thousands of lives; while providing some closure and peace of mind.