Monday, January 31, 2011

Ryan vs Bachmann? You make the call.

Some of the media-driven bruhaha that has dropped straight down out of the punditsphere involves the unusual joint Republican rebuttal of President Obama's SOTUS last Tuesday evening. In pretty much back-to-back fashion, Representative Paul Ryan, up and coming GOP young gun from Wisconsin; and Representative Michelle Bachmann from Minnesota, influential member of the TEA Party Express, and leader of the TEA Party Caucus gave opposition responses to President Obama's State of the Union Address. Very rarely have members of a party distinctly given two rebuttals to one State of the Union Address, especially in a situation where the second rebuttal was not officially sanctioned by the Party Brass. So the

Ryan delivered an inspiring, Reaganesque, 10 minute speech that emphasized the free enterprise and limited government principles that have made America great and have been and should continue to be the solutions to the problems our Nation currently faces. Bachmann said nothing to counteract anything that Ryan said and in fact complemented it by offering solid numbers and policy suggestions that the President should definitely undertake to exercise real solutions to these problems.

"These budget debates are not just about the programs of government; they’re also about the purpose of government.

So I’d like to share with you the principles that guide us. They are anchored in the wisdom of the founders; in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence; and in the words of the American Constitution.

They have to do with the importance of limited government; and with the blessing of self-government.

We believe government’s role is both vital and limited – to defend the nation from attack and provide for the common defense … to secure our borders… to protect innocent life… to uphold our laws and Constitutional rights … to ensure domestic tranquility and equal opportunity … and to help provide a safety net for those who cannot provide for themselves.

We believe that the government has an important role to create the conditions that promote entrepreneurship, upward mobility, and individual responsibility.

We believe, as our founders did, that “the pursuit of happiness” depends upon individual liberty; and individual liberty requires limited government."

He then wrapped up his speech describing how the growth of Government and the deficit due to the actions of previous Congress and administrations has failed millions of people and how these principles of free-enterprise system and limited Government, as well as other conservative values, will be the principles that will solve the problems facing our Nation both in the present down the road:

"We believe a renewed commitment to limited government will unshackle our economy and create millions of new jobs and opportunities for all people, of every background, to succeed and prosper. Under this approach, the spirit of initiative – not political clout – determines who succeeds.

Millions of families have fallen on hard times not because of our ideals of free enterprise – but because our leaders failed to live up to those ideals; because of poor decisions made in Washington and Wall Street that caused a financial crisis, squandered our savings, broke our trust, and crippled our economy.

Today, a similar kind of irresponsibility threatens not only our livelihoods but our way of life.

We need to reclaim our American system of limited government, low taxes, reasonable regulations, and sound money, which has blessed us with unprecedented prosperity. And it has done more to help the poor than any other economic system ever designed. That’s the real secret to job creation – not borrowing and spending more money in Washington.

Limited government and free enterprise have helped make America the greatest nation on earth."

Bachmann began her speech almost immediately with a presentation of numbers and how the unemployment and big Government growth that had initiated during the Bush administration, completely exploded from the beginning of the Obama's stay at the Whitehouse and has continued. She used a chart that marked the unemployment rate from in 2001 through 2011 and used it to make a correlation and then offered solutions the President could undertake that would add some credibility to the statements he made during the SOTUS.

"Obamacare mandates and penalties may even force many job creators to just stop offering health insurance altogether, unless of course yours is one of the more-than-222 privileged companies or unions that has already received a government waiver under Obamacare. In the end, unless we fully repeal Obamacare, a nation that currently enjoys the world's finest health care might be forced to rely on government-run coverage. That could have a devastating impact on our national debt for even generations to come.

For two years, President Obama made promises just like the ones we heard him make tonight. Yet still, we have high unemployment, devalued housing prices and the cost of gasoline is skyrocketing. Well here are a few suggestions for fixing our economy:

  • The president could stop the EPA from imposing a job-destroying cap-and-trade system.
  • The president could support a Balanced Budget Amendment.
  • The president could agree to an energy policy that increases American energy production and reduces our dependence on foreign oil.
  • The president could also turn back some of the 132 regulations put in place in the last two years, many of which will cost our economy $100 million or more.
  • And the president should repeal Obamacare and support free-market solutions, like medical malpractice reform and allowing all Americans to buy any healthcare policy they like anywhere in the United States. We need to start making things again in this country, and we can do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burdens on job creators. America will have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Think about that. Look no further to see why jobs are moving overseas.

We need to start making things again in this country, and we can do that by reducing the tax and regulatory burdens on job creators. America will have the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Think about that. Look no further to see why jobs are moving overseas."

Bachmann, then ended her speech with a Reaganesque inspiration of her own, pledging a renewed Republic has just begun.

"I believe that we are in the early days of a history-making turn in America. Please know how important your calls, visits, and letters are to the maintenance of our liberties. Because of you, Congress is responding and we are just starting to undo the damage that's been done the last few years. Because we believe in lower taxes. We believe in a limited view of government, and exceptionalism in America. And I believe that America is the indispensable nation of the world. Just the creation of this nation itself was a miracle. Who's to say that we can't see a miracle again?

Ryan, who is Chairman of the House Budget Committee, is a rising GOP star whose work on the budget and his commitment to conservative values and principles has some urging a bid for the Presidency in 2012. He is a huge part of the Republican conservative operation and clearly is embraced as part of the Establishment. His Road Map for America, which outlines many conservative budget principles and contained some ideas about privatizing Social Security, that wasn't entirely embraced in all forms by the GOP leadership in the last election. But make no mistake that he is a heavy hitter in the New Congress, especially with the crop of TEA-party inspired candidates who pledge to stick to their guns.

Bachmann is one of the leaders of the 40-member TEA party caucus in the House of Representatives and a member of the TEA Party Express. It was Amy Krener, one of the leaders of the TEA Party Express who connected with Congresswoman Bachmann on first broadcasting the Internet rebuttal on the TEA Party Express Website. The TEA Party Express has never promoted positions outside of the Republican Party platform and aside from putting their weight behind a few candidates in Senate races that didn't quite have all of the credentials to pull out national victories, they're largely responsible for a great number of House gains for the GOP last fall. Their presence as a national outfit working in concert with the Republican grassroots has been nothing but positive for the Party. Their mission is solid. Some of the House Leadership have been quoted as saying that her dual rebuttal the other night was "unusual" or "out of the ordinary" and that's what some of the national media has glommed on to in claiming that her supplement to Ryan's message was upsetting and annoying to the GOP. But if anyone were to take a listen to both presentations, they complement one another and not contradict and they certainly don't make conservatives or the TEA Party look bad at all. If anybody in the GOP is truly upset about this development and wish to make this general non-crisis a into a continuing non-story, then they weren't conservative to begin with.

A great thanks to Chip Hanlon's Red County Blog and to NPR for the text from the various speeches.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The SOTUS: President Obama, will you keep your promises?

As a candidate for President of the United States in 2007 and 2008, Barack Obama made a slew of campaign promises to both liberals and conservatives in various settings that didn't survive the swear-in ceremony on the west side of the Capitol building. Chief among them being:

Going through the federal budget line-by-line and eliminating programs that don't and making sure that those that do work better and cheaper.

Reforming the use of large numbers earmarks in federal spending bills.

Eliminating capital gains taxes for small businesses.

Televised congressional negotiations on the Health Care Bill on C-SPAN.

Spending cuts.

Calling out and publicizing misspent government money.

Not hiring lobbyists as administration staff.

Open transparency including listing of tax breaks and earmarks in spending bills online and a 5-day Internet public comment after passage non-emergency bills before being signed into law.

Into this cauldron, enters the President's third State of the Union speech and the speech, while taken on its face, was one of his more inspiring and clearly more centrist speeches, a little delve into the fine details reveals a very common thread to some of the very same campaign promises pre-POTUS Obama made to the Nation, that when donning the POTUS cap, clearly entered into some state of post-candidate amnesia:

But now that the worst of the recession is over, we have to confront the fact that our government spends more than it takes in. That is not sustainable. Every day, families sacrifice to live within their means. They deserve a government that does the same.

So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years. Now, this would reduce the deficit by more than $400 billion over the next decade, and will bring discretionary spending to the lowest share of our economy since Dwight Eisenhower was President.

Now, most of the cuts and savings I’ve proposed only address annual domestic spending, which represents a little more than 12 percent of our budget. To make further progress, we have to stop pretending that cutting this kind of spending alone will be enough. It won’t.

The bipartisan fiscal commission I created last year made this crystal clear. I don’t agree with all their proposals, but they made important progress. And their conclusion is that the only way to tackle our deficit is to cut excessive spending wherever we find it –- in domestic spending, defense spending, health care spending, and spending through tax breaks and loopholes.

This is the same talk again that you used during the campaign. You practically sold independents on the concept that he would be a fiscal conservative who wouldn't play second fiddle to John McCain and then when you arrived in office the first major legislative accomplishment was to sail through the $787 stimulus plan loaded with earmarks and pet projects and ballooned the deficit. You make overtures that you need to make deeper cuts and to give more consideration to non-discretionary spending. It's hard to tell if this is just nothing more than rhetorical bluster of the same kind you offered about fiscal responsibility during his candidacy.

But to help our companies compete, we also have to knock down barriers that stand in the way of their success.

For example, over the years, a parade of lobbyists has rigged the tax code to benefit particular companies and industries. Those with accountants or lawyers to work the system can end up paying no taxes at all. But all the rest are hit with one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world. It makes no sense, and it has to change.

So tonight, I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years –- without adding to our deficit. It can be done.

This sounds familiar along the lines of your proposal to eliminate the capital gains taxes for small businesses. It hasn't been done. The idea is a great overture if carried out. Simplifying the tax code would be a huge favor all businesses and corporations. Conservatives have been calling for both ideas to be implemented for years. What's interesting to me is that liberals seem to focus on is that biggest problem coming from the tax code seems to be from loopholes and that any reduction in tax rates leads to an increase in the deficit. The biggest problem with the tax code, Mr President, is that it is too complicated and punitive. And while reducing taxes technically leads to an increase in the deficit short-term, it really doesn't in the big picture because it leads to more revenue coming into the government. The real issue that drives up the deficit is unchecked spending. Obviously, if the government spends more than it takes it, and then borrows to make up the difference then the deficit will increase. But if the government cuts taxes, how can that truly drive up the deficit? One can't spend what one doesn't have.

In the coming year, we’ll also work to rebuild people’s faith in the institution of government. Because you deserve to know exactly how and where your tax dollars are being spent, you’ll be able to go to a web site and get that information for the very first time in history. Because you deserve to know when your elected officials are meeting with lobbyists, I ask Congress to do what the White House has already done -- put that information online. And because the American people deserve to know that special interests aren’t larding up legislation with pet projects, both parties in Congress should know this: If a bill comes to my desk with earmarks inside, I will veto it. I will veto it.

To reduce barriers to growth and investment, I’ve ordered a review of government regulations. When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them. But I will not hesitate to create or enforce common-sense safeguards to protect the American people. That’s what we’ve done in this country for more than a century. It’s why our food is safe to eat, our water is safe to drink, and our air is safe to breathe. It’s why we have speed limits and child labor laws. It’s why last year, we put in place consumer protections against hidden fees and penalties by credit card companies and new rules to prevent another financial crisis. And it’s why we passed reform that finally prevents the health insurance industry from exploiting patients.

Here's the transparency angle again and vetoing earmarks. It was great the first time, though I didn't believe it. The second time, I'm definitely not I'm buying it either. You'll definitely have to prove it to me on this one, Mr President. You can put Web sites up like all over the place and play with numbers; claim transparency, claim you'll notify us about legislation that contains pork and earmarks that you said you wouldn't sponsor but did over and over again, tell us you'll fix burdensome regulation that you've proffered up since the first days you were in congress and then tell us you'll fix it. And in the end words mean things, particularly if they're meaningless from the outset, and especially when they're unfulfilled.

Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. And I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult. I know it will take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who could be staffing our research labs or starting a new business, who could be further enriching this nation.

While I agree with you, Mr President, on giving foreign workers or students who don't overstay their visas a fair chance to stay in the US and find a job, I do not agree that children of undocumented workers should necessarily have the same benefit on taxpayer dollars. Your statement about addressing the millions of undocumented workers living in the shadows reeks of mass amnesty for illegals and that, Mr President, has been a plank in your party's platform for quite a while, and like the last attempt you made to force amnesty upon us in 2007, you can be sure this would be a difficult debate for you in 2011 too.

The third step in winning the future is rebuilding America. To attract new businesses to our shores, we need the fastest, most reliable ways to move people, goods, and information -- from high-speed rail to high-speed Internet.

Our infrastructure used to be the best, but our lead has slipped. South Korean homes now have greater Internet access than we do. Countries in Europe and Russia invest more in their roads and railways than we do. China is building faster trains and newer airports. Meanwhile, when our own engineers graded our nation’s infrastructure, they gave us a “D.”

We have to do better. America is the nation that built the transcontinental railroad, brought electricity to rural communities, constructed the Interstate Highway System. The jobs created by these projects didn’t just come from laying down track or pavement. They came from businesses that opened near a town’s new train station or the new off-ramp.

So over the last two years, we’ve begun rebuilding for the 21st century, a project that has meant thousands of good jobs for the hard-hit construction industry. And tonight, I’m proposing that we redouble those efforts.

We’ll put more Americans to work repairing crumbling roads and bridges. We’ll make sure this is fully paid for, attract private investment, and pick projects based [on] what’s best for the economy, not politicians.

Within 25 years, our goal is to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. This could allow you to go places in half the time it takes to travel by car. For some trips, it will be faster than flying –- without the pat-down. As we speak, routes in California and the Midwest are already underway.

Within the next five years, we’ll make it possible for businesses to deploy the next generation of high-speed wireless coverage to 98 percent of all Americans. This isn’t just about -- this isn’t about faster Internet or fewer dropped calls. It’s about connecting every part of America to the digital age. It’s about a rural community in Iowa or Alabama where farmers and small business owners will be able to sell their products all over the world. It’s about a firefighter who can download the design of a burning building onto a handheld device; a student who can take classes with a digital textbook; or a patient who can have face-to-face video chats with her doctor.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don’t know if -- I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own. So instead of subsidizing yesterday’s energy, let’s invest in tomorrow’s.

Now, clean energy breakthroughs will only translate into clean energy jobs if businesses know there will be a market for what they’re selling. So tonight, I challenge you to join me in setting a new goal: By 2035, 80 percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy sources.

Some folks want wind and solar. Others want nuclear, clean coal and natural gas. To meet this goal, we will need them all -- and I urge Democrats and Republicans to work together to make it happen.

So the answer to all of our pressing infrastructure needs is high-speed rail and high-speed Internet. And who is going to pay for that? And we've already tried the whole infrastructure angle with the 2009 Economic Recovery and Investment Act, not even half of which has been implemented and with nearly a trillion dollars having been spent. Where are all of the infrastructure jobs? I don't see the shovel-ready construction crews tackling the crumbling roads and bridges across America in mass numbers. They don't exist. Thousands of construction jobs? That's all we could muster from a trillion dollars? And now you're going to propose that we rebuild more infrastructure and this time it's high-speed rail and high-speed Internet? President Obama, you just proposed that we make cuts in spending and curb the national debt and you'll have to make sacrifices in the Federal budget like all Americans have to make sacrifices in their budgets. How am I supposed to believe you if you're going to propose another government-led spending boondoggle like the federal stimulus bill? High-speed rail is a localized means of travel that will cost a lot of money to build and maintain and large numbers of people will not be using it on a regular basis. We prefer our cars. Why not use the power of the free-enterprise system and then unleash incentives for businesses to develop their high-speed Internet networks and let it transpire on its own. It'll save a lot of money. And Mr President I do agree with what you say about an "all in one" energy policy but you've already made promises about nuclear energy and clean coal technology before, including in your SOTUS address last year, so should I believe you this time too? And then you want to punish the oil companies, the only current purveyors of relatively cheap energy, by taking away their tax incentives. They already pay massive taxes and it's extremely expensive to drill for oil as it is so they're not raking in the dough like you seem to think. It's one thing to make profits by raw numbers but it's another thing to look at where those profits go. If a business doesn't reinvest its profits, it will die. Where is the proposal that we drill on more domestic land where it is less risky and less expensive so that we can achieve greater energy independence right now and alleviate rising fuel costs so that we can achieve an even quicker recovery of the economy? You call it yesterday's energy. Well, it seems to be rather relevant today. And 1 million electric cars by 2015? Are you going to upgrade the electrical grid infrastructure that has been allowed to age and languish due to the efforts of environmental radicals so that said electrical grid can support said electrical cars? Sounds like a fantasy world with a fantasy ending.

A lot of your speech, Mr President, was loaded with great applause lines and inspiring conjecture and if you had made good on all or most of your previous promises, I would be quite willing to take you at your word and be proportionately inspired. But something about your past rhetoric and corresponding behavior makes me completely doubt a lot of what you said and your actions will have to prove to me beyond a doubt that you are willing to make good on your promises in 2011.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

It's Official: Reince Priebus, new RNC Chairman

Reince Priebus
The Republican Party of Wisconsin Chairman who helped oversee the groundbreaking elections of Sean Duffy and Ron Johnson is taking his skills to the national stage. Wisconsin's own Reince Priebus officially beat out six other candidates to become Republican National Committee Chairman on Friday afternoon. Priebus, who has been Republican Party of Wisconsin Chair for nearly 4 years, now replaces the embattled Michael Steele who withdrew in round 4 of the ballot process after not being able to gain enough votes to win re-election. The 168-person Republican National Committee conducts its balloting in a round-by-round format with each prospective candidate able to remain in the running from the start of the vote until they no longer are able to draw enough votes to mathematically attain a majority win. Once ousted, each candidate then is able to focus on throwing their support behind one of the remaining options. Priebus secured his victory with 97 votes in the 7th round, long after Steele had been retired and had thrown his own weight behind RNC official Maria Cino. The win was the end game in a complicated series of closed door maneuvering that defines the RNC chairmanship election. Reince never trailed in votes throughout the day and had entered round one of balloting with a total of 44 official commitments. Over the next 6 rounds, the series of contenders fell by the wayside, with ever-shifting enclaves and behind-the-scenes deal-making swelling his vote total into the 7th round where he was finally able to break the barrier, leaving his closest competitor, Michigan's Saul Anuzis, with 43 and Cino with 28.

Priebus threw his hat in the ring on December 6 of 2010. Being from Wisconsin and up against several long-entrenched members of the RNC, his victory seemed like a long shot, but his personal skills and organizational prowess including his experience in running Michael Steele's 2009 campaign to become Chairman helped solidify inner connections and though he didn't have a great showing in the debate round of the proceedings on January 3, he was able to secure the commitments to help him win on Friday.

"Wisconsin Republican Party Chairman Reince Priebus will make an outstanding chairman for our national party," Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said in a press release when Priebus announced.

"Our success in Wisconsin this year is due in large part to Reince's leadership in joining with the grass-roots movement that swept Wisconsin and our nation, bringing major Republican gains on November 2nd. Reince made our state party all-inclusive, and led the charge to successfully take back the governor's office, a U.S. Senate seat, two U.S. House seats and both chambers of the statehouse.

Reince embraces conservative principles and has an established track record of outstanding communications, fund-raising and grass roots organization. He is exactly what the national GOP needs: a skilled and proven leader who never forgot the roots of the party."

Priebus' leadership style would be a great departure from the former Chairman Steele's, which is exactly what many in the Party have been clamoring for. Steele's out-in-public facade may have been a distraction from the meaningful, in-the-trenches organizational functions that are looked at as being the most vital to the RNC chairmanship. In Wisconsin, Priebus organized a massive grassroots phone and door-to-door ground campaign that led to the State being one of the top get-out-the-vote networks in the country. Aside from helping to result in the elections of the aforementioned Duffy, Johnson, and Reid Ribble for national offices, it also resulted in a complete flip in the Governorship and the State Houses from Democratic majorities to steep Republican. His roll-up-your-sleeves philosophy may be just what the Party needs going forward as the RNC faces daunting challenges with the 2012 Presidential elections looming, the Establishment and Tea Party wings having to Unite behind a common candidate, and the Committee being 20 million in the hole after the 2010 election cycle in combination Steele's fundraising gaffes and fiscal mismanagement. Priebus' first tasks will be to rebuild relationships and coffers.

“Now is the time for the committee to unite,” he said in his victory speech according to the The Daily Caller. “We must come together for the common interest.”

“With that in mind,” he continued, “I want you to know, that I am here to earn the trust and support for each and every one of you.” He added, “And I’m going to start working right now as your chairman.”

“We all recognize that there’s a steep hill here ahead of us. The only way we’ll be able to move forward is if we’re all together.”

"As Reagan said, our nation is that shining city upon a hill and we must work to keep it that way,” Priebus continued, saying that he would do everything possible, with the help of the committee “to be sure that our Republican presidential nominee has the organization in place to beat Barack Obama."

Priebus, a Wisconsin native, was born in Kenosha and received a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and English from the UW Whitewater, served as a staffer in the Wisconsin legislature for a year, and then attended the University of Miami where he obtained a law degree in 1998. He interned for the NAACP in Los Angeles and went to work at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP in Milwaukee once out of law school. He ran for State Senate in 2004 where he unsuccessfully challenged Democrat Robert Wirch and then ran for Wisconsin Republican Party chair in 2007 and won as the youngest person ever elected. He additionally became general counsel for the RNC in 2009.

Friday, January 14, 2011

RNC Elections 2011

I'm glad that (despite getting a late start today) I started following [and live-Tweeting] the #RNCChair race, while all the candidates were still in; Thanks to Colin Hoffman (of the Missouri CRs), for the quick heads-up.

A hearty congratulations to REINCE PRIEBUS, on winning Chairman of the Republican National Committee!!

Thanks so much, also, to Chairman Michael Steele, for his service, to our party, and our conservative GOP causes.

There are other #RNC11 races still taking place, however. Congratulations to Sharon Day, for being elected National Co-Chair!!

Right now, incumbent RNC Treasurer Randy Pullen (of Arizona) is seeking re-election, against challenges from Ron Nehring (CA) and Tony Parker (DC).

Many of us in the Midwest are closely watching the RNC National Secretary election, in which Demetra Demonte (IL), is running, against Dee Dee Benkie (IN).

I assume that that election will be up, next.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Lame ducks: Working past midnight (to finish screwing our state)

Amidst the blizzard (which started yesterday, as unfortunate-Governor Pat Quinn's Inaugural Ball was wrapping up!), and has continued, through now...
...the Illinois General Assembly is still in session.

Today (well, now yesterday!) is the last day of the lame-duck session.

While we failed (which I'm reminded of, about every day!) to win the Office of Governor, and also failed to win enough seats, to take control of the State Senate, nor the State House, we did make significant gains, in both of those Chambers.

During the fall veto session, the IL Dems passed some horrid legislation. They've had another lame-duck session, this week and last, in which they helped screw our state some more (like with that " tax" - for which they had some GOP assistance)... and are now staying up late, to push through the crown jewel of their wreckage - a massive INCOME TAX HIKE!

They are trying to get this rammed through, before the new Republicans are sworn in tomorrow (which would now be today!) at noon, on our capital-city (UIS) campus.

Earlier this evening, the tax-hike plan passed the Illinois House, by a vote of 60 to 57.

The debate, in the State Senate, is still underway.

Follow it (audio or video) live:

And follow: