How the GOP tried to destroy Obama and instead committed suicide

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Frontline, among others, reported on the Republican gathering just before Obama’s inauguration:

On the night of Barack Obama’s inauguration, a group of top GOP luminaries quietly gathered in a Washington steakhouse to lick their wounds and ultimately create the outline of a plan for how to deal with the incoming administration.

“The room was filled. It was a who’s who of ranking members who had at one point been committee chairmen, or in the majority, who now wondered out loud whether they were in the permanent minority,” Frank Luntz, who organized the event, told FRONTLINE.

Among them were Senate power brokers Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl and Tom Coburn, and conservative congressmen Eric Cantor, Kevin McCarthy and Paul Ryan.

After three hours of strategizing, they decided they needed to fight Obama on everything. The new president had no idea what the Republicans were planning.

True to their word in this instance, the Republicans have spent the entirety of President Obama’s two terms obstructing nearly every agenda item possible. POLITICO, as of late December, counted 101 openings for the most senior level administration jobs in the Cabinet-level agencies, out of a total of 379 positions.

Catherine Rampell reported on vacancies at the federal court level noting that last year, the Republican-controlled Senate confirmed just 11 federal judges, the fewest in any year since 1960. Only one appeals court judge was confirmed, the lowest number since 1953.

The Affordable Care Act is the most obvious legislative example of GOP stonewalling. At every turn, Republicans have tried their hardest to prevent President Obama from achieving even the most modest of desired outcomes.

The Result

Let’s ignore opinions of whether or not this was the correct course of action. What were the results of these efforts for the GOP?

First and foremost, look at those congressional power brokers mentioned by name above and where they are now:

  • Jim DeMint: Resigned from the Senate in 2013 to become president of the Heritage Foundation
  • Jon Kyl: Left the Senate at the end of his term in 2012; now works as a lobbyist
  • Tom Coburn: Resigned from the Senate, citing declining health
  • Eric Cantor: Resigned his congressional seat after losing in the primary of 2014; now vice chairman of an investment bank
  • Kevin McCarthy: Failed run for Speaker of the House after the resignation of John Boehner; still a member of Congress
  • Paul Ryan: Currently Speaker of the House, succeeding John Boehner who resigned due to internal pressure from party members

Based purely on these results, one could conclude that the Republican leadership made a fundamental miscalculation in their approach to President Obama. Indeed, many of these members were forced out of Congress because of their failure to stop Obama’s accomplishments completely.

Current State of the Party

That brings us to today. The vast majority of the Republican leadership that promised so loudly to fight President Obama on everything are now gone from the political landscape. President Obama remains, with Hillary Clinton promising to implement a third term of Obama’s policy agenda.

As for the current GOP leadership? It is in disarray, to say the least. After years of attempting to convince Americans that President Obama was destroying the country, that he is a secret Muslim, that the ACA is destroying health care, that America is on the verge of collapse, the Republican presidential nomination is about to be won by Donald Trump.

This GOP primary season has been marked by almost no substantive discussion of issues, no discussion of how to improve the lives of everyday Americans. Instead, it has been marked most visibly by constant name-calling. The race actually hit a new low last week with Marco Rubio asserting that Trump may have ‘wet himself’ while Trump responded by making fun of the size of Rubio’s ears, among other things.

How has Trump enacted a stranglehold on the nomination?

The NYTimes reported this week:

Despite all the forces arrayed against Mr. Trump, the interviews show, the party has been gripped by a nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum and a paralytic sense of indecision and despair, as he has won smashing victories in South Carolina and Nevada.

“A nearly incapacitating leadership vacuum” might be due to the absence of those same Republican leaders who vowed to fight Obama on everything.

What if they had approached the Obama presidency differently? What if they had not portrayed him as the Antichrist and instead prepared to work with him, extracting important concessions on policies that matter to the GOP?

Maybe it wouldn’t have mattered. Maybe they would have been driven out of Washington just as fast as they were in this reality. Maybe Trump would still be the candidate of choice.

But… maybe it could have been different.

In that same NYTimes article, GOP strategists actually discuss potentially running ads against Donald Trump in the general election. The unnamed strategists explain:

A Trump nomination would not only cause Republicans to lose the presidency, they wrote, “but we also lose the Senate, competitive gubernatorial elections and moderate House Republicans.”

It didn’t have to be this way.

#ThanksObama

That title might sound tongue-in-cheek, but it isn’t meant to be. President Obama’s policies over the last six years are leading to astonishingly positive outcomes. I realize that for a certain set of the population, all numbers are lies and only they know the real truth.

However, for the rest of us, I’m not sure the truly terrific outcomes of this president’s policies are being touted enough. President Obama has lead an incredible turnaround in America and while there is always more work to be done, he is putting together a record that should place him among our greatest presidents. Seriously.

For example, this morning the Dow Jones Industrial Average broke 18,000. This chart shows the DJIA for the last 10 years. Can you tell when Obama’s policies began to be implemented? Hint: it’s just after the lowest point.

DJI Interactive Stock Chart _ Yahoo! Inc

In other news, the U.S. economy grew at a sizzling 5 percent annual rate in the July-September 2014 period, the fastest in more than a decade, on the strength of consumer spending and business investment.


What about unemployment?

In an interview with Time magazine (5-23-12), former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney pledged six percent unemployment by the end of his first term in office.

“I can tell you that over a period of four years, by virtue of the policies that we’d put in place, we’d get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent, and perhaps a little lower,” he told Mark Halperin. Unemployment currently stands at 8.1 percent.

Here is the opening statement from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ December 5, 2014 report:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 321,000 in November, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.8 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job gains were widespread, led by growth in professional and business services, retail trade, health care, and manufacturing.

Impressive, huh? Obama’s policies have accomplished more in two and a half years than Romney hoped to achieve in four!


How about the number of uninsured Americans? 

But is the ACA costing more or less than projected?

45231-land-ACA3

To be 100% clear, the ACA is costing less than projected.


I could go on and on. These are just some of the broad economic indicators that President Obama is really doing an amazing job in spite of an obstructionist Congress that has made this work far more difficult than it had to be. One thing is for sure: pass or fail, Obama deserves the credit (or blame) for these policies. He owns them. Fortunately for him, they seem to be paying off in spades.

It’s one thing to have a different political philosophy and desire different policies. However, if you are convinced Obama is intent on destroying America, you just aren’t paying attention. Good news, though: those tinfoil hats are probably on sale right now!

Conservatives and liberals should agree on prayer in schools.

baseball_team_prayer

I very much believe that there are opportunities ripe for collaboration between unlikely parties, like drugs and housing the homeless. These are examples of public policy that will save money, reduce crime, respect the dignity of those affected, and lead to positive social outcomes. Some of the ideas in this series require more study before widespread implementation, but I believe there is enough data to warrant further inspection and at least merit experimentation.

The Issue: Prayer in Schools

It’s not unusual to hear people mention that our country started going to hell once ‘they’ removed God and banned prayer from schools. Let’s take a closer look:

1. The premise is false. NO ONE has removed God or prayer from schools. If you think God isn’t present with your child at school, it’s because you have failed as a parent to teach them about God. Fact: Any child in any school anywhere in the world can pray anytime they want to do so. It might be a personal, silent prayer but I think most people would agree that God counts that prayer just as much as a public display.

2. Official school prayer led by school officials is prohibited for many good reasons. Why would anyone want someone with unknown religious beliefs indoctrinating children in a school setting? I’m quite sure many of my conservative friends would object to the views of many churches. Female priests? Full acceptance of the LGBT community?

Some would object to their children being encouraged to see this as a normal part of religious expression. It’s important to remember that objections to religious viewpoints can run both ways. In a way, it’s ironic; we often hear of the liberal indoctrination of our children in schools but wouldn’t coerced religious observance in school be the most direct indicator of this? Yet it is often the same ‘liberals’ accused of indoctrination who rightfully object to anyone’s religion being formally advocated by schools.

3. Many reference the ACLU with disdain, yet are unaware of the many instances in which the ACLU stands with students in maintaining their right to religious expression. The ACLU’s stance has often been portrayed as no prayer in any school, at any time. This could not be further from the truth.

4. Prayer is appropriate in school. I should know; I pretty much spent my entire high school career praying for some kind of intervention to prevent one test or another!

5. School-led prayer opens the door to abuses of all kinds. Children already struggle to fit in with peers. Making clear their religious differences is unnecessarily isolating and divisive. In addition, some teachers would use this opportunity to inappropriately coerce students into religious expression in order to receive good grades or appropriate instruction. This would be unacceptable in any setting, yet allowing religious doctrine in schools would provide the environment for this to happen more frequently.

Conservative beliefs:

  • Personal responsibility
  • Limited government
  • Free markets
  • Individual liberty
  • Strong national defense
  • The role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.
  • Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems.

I cannot understand why conservatives who advocate limited government and personal responsibility are often the ones most vocal about advocating for school-led prayer. This seems the very antithesis of these concepts. In fact, I have a hard time seeing any conservative support for school-led prayer based on principle. I would welcome references to materials that explain support for school prayer from a limited government perspective, because I find them completely incompatible.

Liberal beliefs:

  • Government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all.
  • Duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights.
  • The role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need.
  • Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve problems.

In my experience, liberals see school-led prayer as a serious threat to equal opportunity and equality for all. Once introduced, there are just so many opportunities for abuse and coercion violating the family’s rights, to say nothing of the intense peer pressure many children would feel.

Conclusion

I know that many see preventing schools from advocating religious views as an attack on their values. However, it is important to remember that our country is founded on religious freedom. Allowing everyone the right to worship in their own way without being coerced by government employees is the only way to respect that right. Children are especially vulnerable in this context.

I’m always surprised we don’t have a unified conservative and liberal stance on this subject. This is one area where I would think we all agree that limited government is best.

Remember: When someone is protecting their child from your views, they are also protecting your child from their views!

Conservatives and liberals should agree on housing the homeless.

homeless jesus

The Rev. David Buck sits next to the Jesus the Homeless statue that was installed in front of his church, St. Alban’s Episcopal, in Davidson, N.C. (NPR.org)

In the first post in this series, I looked at some obstacles I see to good policy development. However, I very much believe that there are opportunities ripe for collaboration between unlikely parties, like drugs.

Let me again note that not all ideals will be served here. For instance, these suggestions should appeal to fiscal conservatives, but not necessarily to social conservatives. That being said, there are examples of public policy which will save money, reduce crime, respect the dignity of those affected, and lead to positive social outcomes.

Some of these require more study before widespread implementation, but I believe there is enough data to warrant further inspection and at least merit experimentation.

The Issue: Housing the Homeless

From National Alliance to End Homelessness:

While circumstances can vary, the main reason people experience homelessness is because they cannot find housing they can afford. It is the scarcity of affordable housing in the United States, particularly in more urban areas where homelessness is more prevalent, that is behind their inability to acquire or maintain housing.

By the numbers:

  • There are 610,042 people experiencing homelessness on any given night in the United States.
  • Of that number, 222,197 are people in families, and
  • 387,845 are individuals.
  • About 18 percent of the homeless population – 109,132 – are considered “chronically homeless,”and
  • About 9 percent of homeless adults- 57,849 – are veterans.

The Good News

Recent data indicates that we can largely solve homelessness in the United States and it’s fairly easy. The solution: provide stable housing to the homeless.

Again, from National Alliance to End Homelessness:

Studies have shown that – in practice, and not just in theory – providing people experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent supportive housing saves taxpayers money.

Permanent supportive housing refers to permanent housing coupled with supportive services.

  • A study recent study followed the progress of the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC) in Seattle, WA. All the residents at this Housing First-styled residence had severe alcohol problems and varying medical and mental health conditions. When taking into account all costs – including housing costs – the participants in the 1811 Eastlake program cost $2,449 less per person per month than those who were in conventional city shelters, as described in the article from theJournal of American Medical Association.
  • A cost study of rural homelessness from Portland, ME found significant cost reductions when providing permanent supportive housing as opposed to serving the people while they remain homeless. The study specifically noted a 57 percent reduction in the cost of mental health services over a six-month period, partly due to a 79 percent drop in the cost of psychiatric hospitalization.
  • A study from Los Angeles, CA – home to ten percent of the entire homeless population – found that placing four chronically homeless people into permanent supportive housing saved the city more than $80,000 per year.

Conservative Appeal

Conservative beliefs:

  • Personal responsibility
  • Limited government
  • Free markets
  • Individual liberty
  • Strong national defense
  • The role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals.
  • Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual to solve problems.

As demonstrated above, providing permanent supportive housing saves taxpayers money. A LOT of money. This alone should be enough to enlist conservative support in the cause.

However, let’s examine this through the lens of personal responsibility. One conservative view might be that this is providing a handout to someone who should be working on their own to obtain housing, that we are teaching them dependence on the government. That’s one way to look at it, I suppose.

However, another conservative might argue that permanent housing is the lever through which to encourage personal responsibility in all other areas of life. For instance, it’s difficult to obtain and keep employment without permanent housing. It’s difficult to maintain health conditions and stay on critical medication without housing. It’s more difficult to take proper care of children and be sure they are being educated well (222,000+ families are homeless).

Viewed in this way, providing one benefit allows people to take more personal responsibility for their lives in all other ways. This seems very consistent with a conservative philosophy.

Oh, and 9 percent of homeless adults are veterans. Surely, they have ‘earned’ their permanent housing (if that’s important)?

Liberal Appeal

Liberal beliefs:

  • Government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all.
  • Duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights.
  • The role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need.
  • Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve problems.

In light of the beliefs stated above, I think it is self-evident why liberals should be supportive of these policies. Providing permanent supportive housing is a government response that alleviates social ills and helps to reduce the number of people in need.

Conclusion

Permanent supportive housing is a clear win for all involved. Taxpayers save significant money, individuals and families receive critical help, and society benefits tremendously from a variety of positive outcomes. For people of faith, this policy seems pretty clearly to line up with the ideals of somebody named Jesus.

Politicians, this is an easy one.


Further Reading: