Archive for Congress

The Obvious Solution to the Debt Crisis

Posted in current events, opinion, politics with tags , , , on July 13, 2011 by Kyle Fleming

I preface this blog post with this qualification: I’m in no way an economist or a debt specialist. Sometimes, I can barely keep track of where my own money goes. But with all the hullabaloo about how we’re going to alleviate some of our nearly $15 trillion dollars of debt, I felt it was time for someone with no experience in monetary matters to step in.

I’ve noticed that a lot of times, people can’t find a solution to anything because they are too deep into the game. Economists and Congresspeople can’t agree on a solution because they know too much. The best revelations come when a neutral third party takes a look at something and points out the obvious that was apparently overlooked.

Hello. I’m your neutral third party.

From what I’ve gathered from various news sources, there are three major elements that are being discussed: raising the debt ceiling, cutting spending, and raising taxes on the wealthiest 2% of Americans. Republicans don’t want to raise the debt ceiling or taxes, but they want to cut spending. Democrats don’t want to cut spending, but would rather we raise the debt ceiling and maybe or maybe not raise taxes.

There is never only one solution, regardless of the problem, and the same is true in this situation. We can’t just cut spending. We can’t just raise the debt ceiling. We can’t just raise taxes. There needs to be a combination of the three.

I call it my Everyman’s Common Sense Debt Solution™, and while it is a combination of the unpopular elements of the three components, they are all equally important to solving this crisis.

First, we must raise taxes on the richest 2% in America. I’ve talked about taxes before (twice even), and I stand by my statements: people who make more money should be expected to help out more, as the lower and middle classes can’t do it alone. Increasing taxes on the rich will provide us with more revenue to repay our debts.

Second, we must make spending cuts. It’s easy to say, but inevitably the question comes up: what do we cut spending on? Different parties, as well as different people within those parties, will disagree on which areas we should cut spending. Personally, I feel that spending should be cut in regards to the military, via bringing all of our troops home from all over the world; prisons, via eliminating or modifying some of the punishments to some of the more minor crimes; and government salaries and benefits, because you were elected to help the American people, and maybe you can do that if you had salaries and benefits similar to the American people.

I should note that spending cuts means cutting spending, not cutting spending while raising spending in other areas. The latter is not cutting spending; it’s redirecting spending. And that doesn’t solve anything. If you’re going to cut something, cut it, and have that be that.

Finally, as a safety net, we should raise the debt ceiling. This final measure is in place because the first two measures won’t work right away. If something goes completely awry in our tax raising or our spending cuts, at least there is some wiggle room to work with.

When all three items are in place, I can pretty much guarantee that we will see some change in our national debt. If it works, our debt will decrease. If it doesn’t work, our debt will increase, and we can see what works and what doesn’t. One thing is for certain, this plan will work much better than the fighting and stalling that is currently in place.

President Obama, Rep. Cantor, Speaker Boehner. Your move.

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It’s All About Context

Posted in current events, pop culture with tags , , , on September 27, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Watching “Morning Joe” this morning on MSNBC, I was once again disappointed with television pundits.

It wasn’t even a major thing. I know every 24-hour news network is going to have some sort of bias to keep viewers, and in order to keep that bias, some context needs to be removed. But when the story is boiled down to sound bites and over-simplification, that’s when it gets extremely disappointing.

The segment of “Morning Joe” in question was when they were discussing Stephen Colbert’s testimony in front of Congress. They did the usual stripping of context, playing only the parts of Colbert’s testimony where he mentions that he would rather have his tomatoes “picked by an American, then sliced by a Guatemalan, and served by a Venezuelan, in a spa, where a Chilean gives me a Brazillian.” And then the discussion stemmed from what is definitely the most unimportant part of Colbert’s testimony.

But what became frustrating was when Mika Brzezinski referenced, and was offended by, her over-simplified back story: Colbert was testifying about a segment that he taped for his Comedy Central show “The Colbert Report.”

Yes, he did immigrant labor work for a segment on his show, but it wasn’t originally meant to be a segment. It was originally Colbert fulfilling his promise to work a day as a migrant worker as part of the UFW’s “Take Our Jobs” campaign, which asks all Americans to spend a day working as a migrant laborer. It is a brilliant idea, since the prevailing mantra among people against illegal immigration is that immigrants are taking jobs away from true Americans. If this was the case, the UFW says, then all unemployed Americans should be jumping at the chance to “take back their jobs” from the illegal immigrants.

And jump they did. The program started this summer, and to date, only 16 people have taken the offer. Not so much of a jump as it is a hop, possibly a skip.

Colbert’s testimony was meant to offer a perspective of what it is to be a migrant worker, the harsh working conditions, the extremely low pay, and the idea that you have absolutely no rights, and may very well work this job for the rest of your life, never really having made a living. And members of Congress were “surprised” that a comedian who riffs on politics for a living would dare to make a mockery of the Grand and Glorious Congress.

But the whole Colbert thing is just a small part of a bigger picture of context. With election season in full swing, political ads are saturating the air waves, especially here in Iowa. Ads put out by Republican and Tea Party committees are urging people to go out and vote to “take back America” from the evil President Obama. One ad states that Obama’s “experimental policies” have failed, because 15 million people are unemployed, the economy is still rough, and thousands of houses will be foreclosed on by the end of the day.

Never mind that the decline started in the Bush administration. Never mind that the rich in Congress, regardless of party, consistently look out for their own best interest, all but ignoring Middle America. It’s easy to look at a small chunk of something out of context and make a big deal about it, but if the “big deal” is blatantly wrong, then the whole idea of informing people with the news is no longer relevant.

A Taxing Contradiction

Posted in current events with tags , , , , on August 27, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Taxes are interesting. They come out of our paychecks every day, and no one is really sure where they go. Some complain that there are too many taxes, because their paychecks don’t give them much. Others think that taxes should be gone forever, because they don’t really do anything.

Taxes are only a hot-button issue these days because the tax cuts for the rich from the Bush Presidency are about to expire. Some politicians are saying that it will be crucial that these tax cuts expire, as it will help to stimulate the economy. Others say that it is foolish to introduce more taxes in such an unstable economy.

Even the Tea Party is hopping on the bandwagon, calling for the elimination of taxes. “Taxed Enough Already,” read the signs, in a call to reduce wasteful government spending by reducing the amount of money they can waste.

What everyone seems to be ignoring should be a common sense thing: taxes are crucial to running America, and a lot of America is in shambles because there isn’t enough money to do anything.

Taxes pay for pretty much everything that we take for granted. A short list of things that taxes pay for:

  • Public Schools
  • Road Maintenance
  • Street Lights
  • Medicare
  • Unemployment
  • Emergency Room Care
  • Public Transit
  • Social Security
  • Police
  • Fire Department
  • Ambulances
  • Military
  • Garbage Services
  • Utilities
  • Prisons

And those are things that I came up with off the top of my head. There are probably so many other things that our taxes pay for that we don’t even realize pay for.

What’s really sad about this whole thing is that many politicians feel that it’s some big insult that people who make more should pay more in taxes. It makes me wonder if anyone is thinking any more.

The “American Dream” might be to make a bunch of money and have that be your measure of success, but if it is at the expense of my fellow American, then I’m done chasing the dream.

People who make more money should be expected to help out more than those who are hovering around the poverty line. It’s idiotic thinking to assume that by having a lot of money you’re just free to keep all of that. If I had that much money to spare, I would donate whole, multi-million dollar paychecks toward taxes.

There are roads around the country that are being unpaved because there isn’t enough money for upkeep. Street lights are being turned off because the city can’t afford to keep them on all night.

The lower and middle class can’t do it alone. The Bush tax cuts need to expire, and the rich need to quit whining. A lot of rich people think that making a big show of giving a lot of money to charity should be enough to get them off the hook. “Hey, look! I’m doing something great! Look how awesome I am!”

But giving to charity doesn’t stop a lot of public schools and police stations closing. Giving to charity doesn’t fix the roads. Giving to charity doesn’t provide for better health care. The rich should have to pay their fair share, and maybe even more. It’ll help us improve our economy, and it’ll definitely help to improve America.

Constitutionally Reprehensible

Posted in current events, politics with tags , , , on August 20, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Illegal immigration is a topic that has been on everyone’s mind for years. How do we solve the problem of Mexicans crossing the border to steal our jobs and our welfare? How do we stop illegals from coming into the country and having their babies, in the hope that they will have a better life in the States?

Some people are suggesting changing the Constitution. Those people are stupid.

The 14th Amendment states that anyone born in the United States is automatically a US citizen, and as such, no state can stop them from having full rights as a citizen. Many politicians, mainly Republicans, are saying that the 14th Amendment should be repealed, to prevent Mexican parents from dropping “anchor babies” in the States, to stop practicing “drop and leave” tactics.

Again, these people are stupid.

To address the same thing that has been addressed over and over again, having a child in the States doesn’t mean that the parents will have automatic citizenship. The child can bring their parents back to the states, but first they have to be 21, and they have to petition the government, and then there is a ten year waiting period, and then, if all goes well, the parents may enter the US with a green card. It’s the quickest way to citizenship, right?

But the big picture that these politicians are missing is one that they don’t seem to realize: the amendment applies to everyone in the country. Mexican, Black, White, Asian, European, every person born or naturalized in the US is a citizen.

Why is that so important? Because it means that if you repeal the 14th Amendment, not only will Mexican babies not be citizens, but babies born to other people in the states won’t be citizens either.

Imagine repealing the 14th Amendment. Congratulations, no longer is there the made-up infestation of “anchor babies!” Except now, when you have a kid, you have to fill out forms for it to be an American citizen. What was once an automatic thing that you didn’t have to worry about is suddenly a necessary process for having a child. Take the wife to the hospital, deliver the baby, apply for a Social Security Number, and begin work filling out forms for naturalization: the N-400, N-300, N-600, and so many others.

So much stress, and all because you didn’t want some dirty Mexican dropping their babies in the States.

Immigration is a touchy issue all around. The question of whether to grant amnesty to immigrants who want to join the military is one that is hotly debated. The economic impact of rounding up and deporting all illegal immigrants is such that America would probably be worse off without them than they would be leaving them alone. There have been talks of either relaxing or strengthening the immigration and naturalization process, and both sides make sense. There are convincing pros and cons for every option out there, and the problem may never be solved in my lifetime.

That being said, and to be as cliche as possible, repealing the Constitution is suicide, a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I’m glad that Republican powerhouses like Lou Dobbs and Mike Huckabee are speaking out against this proposal. It puts a smile on my face knowing that there are some Republicans that can think rationally about things, and not jump at the first idea they think will work.

Hypocrisy and “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”

Posted in current events with tags , , , , , , on February 3, 2010 by Kyle Fleming

Hypocrisy runs rampant in the world. There is not one person in the world that isnt’ a hypocrite, and if you claim that you are not, then you are just digging yourself into a hole. Parents can be hypocrites when they tell their children not to drink or smoke, while in the same breath, they tell stories about how they would get people older than them to buy them alcohol and cigarettes. Politicians are hypocrites when they claim to be all about family values, and later are caught cheating on their spouses with another woman (or man, in some cases).

Even some pastors are hypocrites. I was listening to a podcast recently of a megachurch, and the pastor said that when he was in college, he did the stereotypical college things: he drank, he smoked, he had sex, and was generally a nuisance. But then he “came to the Light,” and completely changed his behavior. He claims that because he was converted, he is able to see and learn from his mistakes, but the way he presented it definitely seemed like he was making up for his mistakes, and that by preaching so adamantly against those behaviors, he is absolving his past sins.

But the biggest form of hypocrisy that is in the news today is the attempt at eliminating the archaic “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the military. Quite literally one of the last remaining forms of discrimination that is completely unwarranted, it forces gays and lesbians that are serving in the military to “keep their gayness to themselves.” It’s honestly shocking and apalling that this sort of behavior is still acceptable in the military, but it’s the sort of thing that is allowed to happen, because it isn’t “outright discrimination,” as I like to call it.

“Outright discrimintaion” is a form of discrimination where it is obvious why the discrimination is happening. If Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, or any other racial demographic were discriminated against in the military, those specific groups would be up and arms, because no matter how the government or the military words it, it is obvious that the discrimination is based on race.

On the other hand, if gays and lesbians are discriminated against, there are other possible reasons for the discrimination, such as low morale, insubordinate attitude, and so on. Because there is no reason to believe that the discrimination is purely on sexual orientation alone, it is allowed to happen. And so, gays and lesbians are forced to be untrue to themselves in order to protect their country.

Absolutely unacceptable.

There is no way that this should be allowed to happen, and both parties need to realize that it is wrong. The problem is, the “family values” Republicans with their mistresses and their young male pages refuse to accept that homosexuality is completely normal and natural, while at the same time, “progressive” Democrats with their “free love” mentality and their inability to be forceful can’t step up to the challenge.

If President Obama really wants “Don’t ask, don’t tell” eliminated, he’s going to have to quit being a moderator and start being a leader. Change needs to be done on so many fronts, but by trying to be bipartisan, Congress and the Senate are just dragging out a process that could easily be quick and easy.

I know I’m going to be a hypocrite in saying this, because I believe that all church services should be like old country Lutheran churches, with pipe organs and traditional liturgy, and with no such thing as a praise band doing contemporary music, but there are plenty of people out there who need to embrace change, and just need that little extra shove into the modern age.