Posts from Barack Obama

The Fiscal Mess: Death By A Thousand Cuts

Whomever came up with the term fiscal cliff to describe the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the simultaneous sequester of across the board spending cuts did not do us any favors. I honestly had hoped we would get both. But that was never going to happen once it was framed as driving over a cliff. Who wants to do that?

Instead we got some small deal that essentially raises taxes on the highest earners and a kick the can approach on everything else. We are going to address our ridiculously high deficit in a series of crisis driven deadlines instead of the rational way, which is to sit down and hammer out a "grand bargain."

I do agree that cutting spending in some sort of brain dead across the board sequester is not ideal. And I also believe that phasing in our bad tasting but necessary fiscal medicine is better for the ecomony and so therefore a more prudent policy.

But here is the deal. We are spending way too much money in our federal goverment and we aren't bringing in enough revenue. The original grand bargain between Boehner and Obama which would have cut spending by $4.5 trillion over ten years and raised about half of that in new revenues over the same time period was the right idea. That would have gotten our annual deficit down to sub $500bn which still seems like a huge amount to me.

Now we are going to do the thing that every CEO tries to avoid, and that is death by a thousand cuts. It is demoralizing to everyone and painful to watch. And because our political system is so polarized and politicized, I can't imagine we will ever get to the $750bn in annual deficit reduction we will need to get our fiscal house in order.

I know that many in this community will point the finger at Obama and cite his ongoing lack of leadership (and his instinct to play politics) on this issue. I think that criticism is fair. But to some degree Obama is being driven to this place by an even worse behavior by the tea party wing of the Republican party who made a silly pledge to avoid raising taxes and now has to live up to it. The elder Bush (who I sure hope is feeling better) made a stupid pledge like that and lost out on a deserved second term as a result. When will the right wing of our government stop making taxes their third rail? And when will the left wing of our government understand that entitlements are a cancer growing inside this country that must be addressed now?

At times like this, I see the value in dictatorships (at least benevolent ones) and parliamentary systems. We need leadership that can address the issue head on and make the hard but necessary decisions to get our fiscal house in order. And we don't have that in this country. In either party. It sucks.


Election Day 2012

We've witnessed the most expensive presidential election contest in history. If you don't live in one of the eight to ten "swing states", it didn't feel like much of an election. I did not see one commercial for either side. But friends who have been in Ohio tell me they have been bombarded for months. Well that's the electoral college for you.

But regardless of whether you live in a swing state of not, I urge everyone to go out and vote. I plan to do that bright and early this morning on my way to work. I have no idea how crowded the polls will be so I am going to leave extra time.

Like much of America, I find it hard to be enthusiastic about either choice this morning. My vote will be a vote against Romney and the GOP more than anything else. I don't subscribe to the GOP's social views and I don't subscribe to the idea that you can fix the fiscal mess without asking those like me who have to the means to do more. I am hoping that once their legislative strategy of "keeping Obama to four years" fails, the GOP will meet the Democrats in the middle and find common ground to deal with the messes that all of our elected officials have been entrusted to solve.

I have thought a lot about the Kid's advice to pull the lever for Gary Johnson, but that doesn't work for me. It's a two horse race and placing the lever for anyone else is a waste of a vote. And I take the job of electing a President too seriously to waste a vote like that.

But regardless of how you feel about Romney, Obama, or Gary Johnson, I hope that all of you take the time today to go out and vote. Our system sucks in so many ways, but it is our system and as citizens we have a responsibility to engage in it. Today, that means voting.


Free Speech

Our President gave an important speech yesterday at the UN. It was a speech about speech. Free speech. This is a topic that gets me going. I have been investing in the tools of self expression and free speech for close to twenty years now. I know how powerful they are and I also know that they can be used by haters and trouble makers just as easily as they can be used for good.

Here at AVC, I have tried to cultivate a forum where all opinions are welcome. Even those that are hateful or hurtful to me. I let them stand. Where everyone can judge them and opine on them. The President said this at the UN and I wholeheartedly agree with it:

As president of our country, and commander in chief of our military, I accept that people are going to call me awful things every day,” Mr. Obama said. “And I will defend their right to do so.

And he went on to say this:

the strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech — the voices of tolerance that rally against bigotry and blasphemy, and lift up the values of understanding and mutual respect.

These are important values to state, to live by, and to protect. I applaud the President for expressing his beliefs on this subject. If we can export anything to the parts of the world that are just beginning their relationship with democracy, it is these ideas and the tools that make self expression possible. We must do this.


The Far Center Party

My friend and occasional AVC community member Steve Kane calls himself a member of the Far Center Party. As I watch the two parties and their defacto nominees gear up for another presidential election, I find myself wanting to tune out the whole thing.

I am socially liberal. I was thrilled when Obama recognized a gay couple's right to marriage.

I am fiscally conservative. Obamacare scares me.

I am not really comfortable in any political party. The social views of the Republican party are more frightening to me than the economic views of the Democratic party. So I hold my nose and vote Democratic most of the time. But that is less and less satisfying every day.

Living in NYC for the past ten years has been a joy. We have a mayor who is not hostage to any orthodoxy. A mayor who simply makes the most pragmatic and practical decision at the time given his various options. We have a mayor who epitomizes the values of the Far Center Party.

I believe Bloomberg would run for President if he thought he could win. And I believe he has done the math and the analysis and has concluded that he cannot. That has everything to do with how our two political parties control congress and the electoral college.

I was hopeful that something like Americans Elect would work. It did not.

Our country is hostage to the two political parties who control our electoral process. Those of us in the Far Center Party should figure out how to change that.


Same Sex Marriage

So our President finally had the political courage to say publicly what I am sure he has privately believed for a long time. Kudos to him. I am not sure about the political wisdom of that disclosure. But it takes courage to come out and say it, particularly in an election year in an country where 30 states have explicity banned it.

We talked about the same sex issue on this blog last weekend in connection with North Carolina's Amendment One, which passed this week with 60% of the vote.

I'm with the President on this one. I believe that same sex couples should be allowed to marry. And I am glad that I live in a state that recognizes that right. For me it is about basic human decency.

But more than that, I applaud the President for taking an important step to say that gay people are normal and accepted in our country. Frank Bruni put it this way:

I find myself thinking about all the teenagers and young adults out there who cower in silence because they worry about being ostracized if they speak the truth about their sexual orientation. I think about the ones who are bullied, even the ones who contemplate taking their own lives.

And I think about what it will mean to them to hear the president say what he did today, not because they’re focused on marriage but because they’re buoyed by any and every reassurance that there’s nothing wrong with them, nothing inferior about them. Today their president gave them that reassurance.

That's what this is all about. Normalcy. Being accepted. And I am with the President 100% on this issue and commend him for doing what he did. A proud day in my book.