Third Way Perspectives
Archive for the ‘Social Policy & Politics Program’ Category
May 13th, 2013
The deficit is going down. Woo-hoo! Let the celebrations begin.
Oh, wait. That may not be altogether a good thing. Certainly not for Republicans. They need an out-of-control deficit to bludgeon Democrats into cutting more spending. It may not be good news for the economic recovery either. Budget austerity means slower growth. Want proof? Look at Europe.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates that this year’s federal budget deficit will drop from $1.1 trillion to $845 billion. Economists at Goldman Sachs project that we will get the deficit under control within two years. Why is this happening?
April 26th, 2013
Syria is a test for President Obama and the New America coalition he brought to power. Can the U.S. fulfill its obligation to be “the world’s indispensable nation” while at the same time avoiding the kind of military quagmire that enrages Democrats?
The Obama Administration did it once before, in Libya. The U.S. had limited interests in Libya. The Obama Administration proved that it could make a limited commitment, using limited resources, for a limited goal. No invasion, no nation-building. Syria, however, is more complicated and more dangerous.
There are two arguments propelling the Obama Administration to intervene in Syria. One is political. President Obama has drawn a “red line” in Syria. The government of Syrian President Bashar Assad appears to have crossed it. Obama said last year, “A red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.”
Now the White House has released a finding by the intelligence community asserting “with varying degrees of confidence” that the Assad government has used chemical weapons “on a small scale.” The Syrian regime has called Obama’s bluff. Now what will we do?
April 9th, 2013
On March 26, 2003, a lawyer stood in front of the nine Justices on the Supreme Court and argued that states should not be allowed to criminally prosecute gay and lesbian people for engaging in sexual activity. At the time, 14 states still had laws on the books that made “homosexual conduct” a crime. Flash forward exactly ten years later, and the Court was considering whether Proposition 8, (barring gay couples from marrying in California) violates the Equal Protection clause of the Constitution. What a difference a decade makes.
To say our country has undergone a rapid transformation on the issue of marriage for gay couples is an understatement. The speed and breadth of this evolution have shocked even the most optimistic advocates. Just in the past two weeks, a cascade of Senators from purple and red states have added their voices to the chorus of marriage supporters, including Rockefeller, Kaine, Tester, McCaskill, Portman, Warner, and Hagan at last count. And this week’s Supreme Court arguments were another landmark moment for the cause.
Because this progress has come at such an astonishing clip, it is understandable that many had hoped the Supreme Court would take this opportunity to issue a broad decision that acknowledged a Constitutional right for gay couples to marry nationwide. After this week’s oral arguments, that outcome seems unlikely. But that reality should not be seen as a setback — rather, it is an opportunity to continue our nation’s swift journey toward full acceptance of gay and lesbian couples.
February 24th, 2013
It was a terrible tragedy that ended in a touching love story. Chris Christie and Barack Obama in A Sandy Love Story. It helped Obama get re-elected, and it may do the same for Governor Christie in New Jersey this year.
Best performance by an actor
Karl Rove’s meltdown on Fox News election night, trying to argue that Ohio went for Romney. A bravura performance.
Best performance by an actress
Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill performs in the Republican Senate primary. She runs ads calling Todd Akin—who invented something called “legitimate rape”—“the most conservative congressman in Missouri.” It works. She gets the opponent she wants. And wins.
Best supporting actor
Bill Clinton speech at the Democratic convention: “Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: arithmetic.”
Best supporting actress
Sandra Fluke, the Georgetown University law student Rush Limbaugh insulted. Fluke endorsed Obama. And the Republican “war or women” became an issue.
Chief Justice John Roberts directed the Supreme Court to uphold the Obama health care law. That may have turned the tide in the election.
Mitt Romney singing “America the Beautiful.” And he wasn’t lip synching.
Best live action short
Mitt Romney talking about the 47 percent of Americans he didn’t care about. Credit to Jimmy Carter IV, who made the tape public.
Best foreign language film
Clint Eastwood at the Republican convention speaking in “chair” to a piece of furniture.
The Etch-a-sketch image, created by Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom .
Best costume design
The Tea Party movement. No one could beat their get-ups.
Best adapted screenplay
Newt Gingrich attacking the news media in the South Carolina debate. This story was adapted from a long history of conservative attacks on the media, going back to Spiro Agnew. The attack delivers victory to Gingrich in the S.C. primary.
Best original screenplay
New York Times blogger Nate Silver, who provided the authoritative narrative of the election. If there was any big winner in this election besides President Obama, it was Mr. Silver. And Big Data.
February 13th, 2013
- The spirit was less confrontational than the inaugural address. The President repeatedly called for bipartisanship and compromise. He denounced partisanship and called for common purpose.
- One thing Republicans will likely object to: the President’s repeated call for the wealthiest Americans to do “their fair share’” and pay more in taxes and Medicare premiums. Republicans will call that class warfare and more tax hikes.
- The President made a strong argument that economic growth is a higher priority than deficit reduction. That’s where he and Republicans part company. Republicans believe deficit reduction is a prerequisite for economic growth. Obama said that “reckless spending cuts” will inhibit growth. He insisted on a “balanced’” approach to deficit reduction, including both “revenue increases” (mostly through tax reform) and cautious spending cuts.
- He called the looming sequesters (across-the-board spending cuts) a “manufactured crisis.”‘ That is exactly what they are. The American public has no idea where this impending crisis is coming from and they do not see it as real. The President re-enforced that notion and warned that allowing the sequesters to go into effect would jeopardize the nation’s security, devastate our priorities and cost “hundreds of thousands of jobs.” Bottom line: he called the sequesters “a really bad idea.”
- President Obama argued that nothing he proposed “should increase our deficit by a single dime.” Several of the initiatives he proposed would be financed without tax revenues. The Energy Security Trust would come from “oil and gas revenues.” Private capital would pay for the Partnership to Rebuild America.” The non-partisan commission to improve voting procedures would cost very little tax money.
- The only real anti-poverty measure he talked about was raising the minimum wage and pegging it to inflation — which costs government nothing.
- He probably rattled a lot of college and university administrators when he said that federal aid to colleges would be based partly on “affordability and value.” College costs have been increasing much faster than inflation, and he wants to force colleges to hold down costs.
- On foreign policy, he touted two things:
- His record of ending wars, not starting them; and
- His shift from massive military intervention to targeted counter-terrorism strikes. He responded to criticism of drone strikes by promising to “engage with Congress” to ensure that counter-terrorism strikes would be legal and transparent.
- Two foreign policy issues received particular emphasis:
- Cyber security, which he depicted as a “rapidly growing threat,”; and
- Human rights, which is likely to be elevated to a top foreign policy priority by the New America coalition that elected him.
- His call for comprehensive immigration reform was loud and clear. That’s where he knows Republicans are on the defensive.
- He mentioned gay rights only in passing — for instance, at the beginning, when he said that you should be able to get ahead in this country no matter “who you love.” But it may be unprecedented for any President to mention gays in a State of the Union speech.
- The most emotional moment in the speech came when he discussed gun violence and called attention to the victims. But the President did not specifically call for Congress to pass new gun controls. He simply said ”They deserve a vote.” That was very clever. He was insisting that members of Congress go on record for or against background checks, tougher gun trafficking laws and bans on high-capacity magazines and assault weapons, even if the measures fail (as many probably will). When legislators cast a vote against those things, they will become vulnerable to attack by their opponents as insensitive to gun violence. The President’s call got a rousing response from legislators, who chanted, “Vote! Vote! Vote!”
- Altogether, the State of the Union speech was not particularly bold or ambitious. It was realistic.
February 11th, 2013
Democrats don’t talk about it, but they have become the party of the unchurched in America. It’s right there in the 2012 exit poll. Asked, “Are you Protestant, Catholic, Mormon, other Christian, Jewish, Muslim, other or none?” 12% of the voters last year called themselves “None.” They voted 70% for Barack Obama.
The unchurched were about equal in number to African-American voters (13%), larger than Latinos (10%) and much larger than either Mormons or Jews (each 2%).
The reason why Democrats don’t talk about the unchurched is obvious. They don’t want to advertise themselves as “the godless party.” The United States is still a country where religion is a major force in both public and private life. That makes the U.S. unique among advanced industrial countries.
In October, the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life reported that 58% of Americans claim that religion is very important in their lives—far higher than in Britain (17%), France (13%), Germany (21%) or even Spain, once the land of the Holy Inquisition (22%). More Americans believe in God, heaven, hell, angels, Satan and the inerrant authority of the Bible than citizens of any other modern country.