Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Scott Brown, Tom Campbell Switch, Boxer Troubles and the Federal Decision

While the election of Scott Brown is relatively upsetting and should raise concerns with the Left, I am unsure that the reaction that the Left has been given is a productive one. Yes, I agree, midterm elections should be a concern for the Democrats, we must remember that midterm elections are always a concern for the party in power and that Scott Brown was a localized spin issue. Martha Coakley made many political gaffs and her staff failed to prepare for the current failures of the health care issue. Having a simple, calming response to Brown's concern that Massachusetts will pay twice for health care since they already have a similar plan would have derailed the majority of the naked truck owner's campaign. If such a response existed, then there was a failure of controlling the conversation on the part of her staff since I have yet to hear of such a response.

As has been mentioned elsewhere, the democrats still have a majority in Congress. Bush, with a little effort and positioning was able to push through controversial legislation with no where near the majority the Democrats currently have. While I can understand that real and effective positive change can take time, I also know that the majority of Americans are frustrated and understandably impatient. One of the most important roles of the President is as the leader of the country. Part of the responsibilities of the role are ceremonial for instilling faith in the government and calm in the public. Despite this role, it is up to the Left to push their party in passing the message. Obama can't do everything. If he tries he won't be able to do anything. We have to support him and try to be part of the solution. We need to work hard now more than ever with so many strange things happening in the world.

I want to point your attention to what is happening with California Senators. Rumor has it that Feinstein may end her current term 2 years early to run for the California Governorship. This brings the current list of dems to six, reps to three. Of the Democratic Candidates, after SF Mayor Newsom dropped out of the race and if Feinstein actually runs, I only consider two to be serious candidates; Brown and Feinstein because of name recognition, experience and popularity. For the republican Candidates you have Steve Poizner, California's Insurance Commissioner who at one point was the "leader of the pack" and Meg Whitman. She is the former president and CEO of eBay and is apparently richer than Midas. $20 Million of her own wealth has been poured into her campaign and is now "within five points of Brown in a head-to-head matchup;"
Ex-eBay CEO Meg Whitman's $19 million [at the time] spending spree has apparently bought her a brand that practically puts her on an even playing field with state Attorney General Jerry Brown's superior name recognition.
I am already hearing people say that Brown is in a doomed position thanks to Whitman's personal finances and with the help of other like minded companies now that the Federal ruling on Corporate Campaign Finance Law is starting to take effect. But, and I hate to once again show how big of a dork I am, as Yoda said; "that is why you fail." If you don't believe you can fight a foe, why fight? The Democrats as a party need to pull themselves up by their bootstraps if they want to keep the amazing position they are in. We have a still popular Democratic president and a majority in Congress. If we don't utilize it, then we will fail to keep it. We need to stop being afraid and push for what is right. If we fail to do this we will start loosing seats.

The same situation is true for the Senatorial Race with Barbara Boxer. Many are begin to argue that the incumbent Senator is "beatable" in 2010. This makes sense with her approval rating at %46 and the declining effectiveness of the current California delegation to push for the Health Care Bill. Her opponents include Carly Fiorina who left as the CEO of HP under some shady circumstances and former Representative and former gubernatorial candidate Tom Campbell. Carly Fiorina, along with the HP situation, has been having slipping poll numbers despite the millions of dollars she has poured into the race. In fact, a recent poll shows that Campbell is ahead of the pack for the Republicans and trails Boxer by a whopping 4 points. Campbell has the experience to be a major contender and could begin to pull some of the moderates and independents over to his side. If Boxer and the people supporting her aren't careful, she will find herself in a harsh and losable race.

Is this frightening? Of course, but in a time of fight or flight, it would have been hoped that the Democratic party would chose "fight" every now and again. I was in a meeting the other day where the topic of the recent court ruling regarding corporate campaign contributions and how it affected Boxer's campaign arose. It was interesting how tired and frustrated the others in the room felt. We spoke on the effect of this ruling on California politics and I mentioned an NPR program that was on recently (this is not it but it is similar) that described how this would adversely affect democratic and female candidates specifically based on past contribution trends. The same report described how, since corporate America survives on the status quo that incumbents that they identify with will be virtually impossible to get out. In this conversation one of the participants called the situation "hopeless." I disagree, and refer back to my earlier point; we need to fight.

This conversation was far too reminiscent of others out there. Other conversations where very smart and very motivated progressive people who have worked hard in their areas to push for the progressive agenda seem to be giving up. They appear to have no more patience for the system as it is and the traditional methods of protesting it. It is in these times that we must remember that walk-outs, sit-ins and sleep-ins were once considered incredibly radical. We must come up with new ways withing and outside the system to enact the change we want. If there is a failure in the system it is up to us to change it. Obama is a rational president, trying to fight against a rotten legacy of a deflated economy while still pushing for real and progressive change. While he may not call on us, he is still relying on us to support him and it is our responsibility to try and face these rising obstacles.

While some may complain that these are insurmountable odds, I say, "no, we must fight against and sally forth!" It is imperative that we look at these challenges and face them head on. We can look at all the obstacles that we face and panic or we could analyze it and try to come up with new solutions. Why not see these obstacles as challenges to overcome? Where is our fighting spirit?

Again, without our support, our chance to accomplish real change and real good may fall to pieces.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Special Guest Blog - Federal Decision on Campaign Finance Law

And now for a special guest blog by Angel Nova of California Bay Area band - the Phenomenauts.

I love my country, but I can't afford to give $2,000 dollars to my favorite candidates. Like most Americans, I am already at a dis advantage to People who can. If a corporation has the same rights as a person, the people who control that corporation get to give the maximum amount allowed, and then they get to give from their corporation. And if that wasn't unfair enough, now they can spend as much as they want to make adds to discredit the candidates they don't like.

As we have seen in the past, these adds don't even have to be true. The massive influence of big money corrupted the health care bill to death, it is trying to corrupt the new environmental bill, and it corrupts and skews every law that law makers make in favor of a very small minority of already advantaged people at the very top. Unfortunately, it is not in these very few peoples best interest to have a strong middle class, because they want to pay as little as they can for labor. And as we can see from history, a strong middle class is what makes us strong and prosperous.

The only way out of this mess that I can see is PUBLICLY FINANCED ELECTIONS. If you think this will cost money, you don't see the big picture. A few years ago, the top five oil companies made more money than any company in the history of the world. On top of this, they also got huge tax breaks. We are talking billions of dollars. They didn't get those tax breaks for being handsome, they got them as kickbacks for giving money to politicians so they could run for office. That is just ONE industry and it would probably pay for every candidate in the nation. It wouldn't cost money, it would make money. Imagine how much money we could save. And imagine how much more our laws would represent us the people. And imagine how strong and prosperous we would be again. Let's do it. Let's kick these [redacted] out. Let's make America a representative government again. Imagine it, a government of the people, for the people and by the people.

This has been an =Angel Nova= rant.
Science and Honor,
=Angel Nova=

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Review of the California Economy June 2010

First let me say welcome to 2010. "Hi 2010, thanks for trying to be better than 2009."

For those of you that read my blog you will remember that in Nov. 2008, I wrote a quick review of the state of the flailing California economy. I wanted to give a quick update. As you can see the predicted 2010 deficit that was estimated to be $28 Billion dollars. According to current figures the actual Gap is at about $20 Billion. I am not sure if this was supposed to be at the onset or end of 2010 but we are close. Keep in mind that this is happening at a time when the Federal Government is saying that the Stimulus Package has "worked" and while they may say this, Californians are about to be hit harder than they think. In fact the State it self is still has quite a bit of money out there in IOUs;
More than 89,000 people and businesses who received IOUs last year as California stopped paying its bills during the summer budget crunch still haven’t cashed in on the more than $50 million they are owed.
This $20 Billion gap is too large to actually fathom. The governor seems to think that he has a plan to solve this situation with cuts and federal aid.

“I know many of these cuts are painful,” Mr. Schwarzenegger said at a news conference in Sacramento. “Believe me, these are the hardest decisions a governor has to make. Yet there is simply no conceivable way to avoid more cuts and more pain.”

For instance, Mr. Schwarzenegger chose not to cut financing for public universities, but has proposed eliminating the state’s $1 billion welfare program for families with children, ending a $126 million health insurance program for children, reducing the state’s Medicaid eligibility to the minimum to save over $500 million...

The ramifications of this are scary. What happens to those families when the rug is cut from out of them? Think about how many people will be set adrift. Think about how many families are going to be hurt by this and think about how, odds are, the State will have to find a way to help them through other means such as higher rates of emergency care and shelters.

He even proposed a strange economic "juggle" of various gas taxes. Where the excise tax would go up and the tax at the pump went down. I see this as a placation; sure most people getting gas will see "oh, I am paying less" eventually the cost will come back down to us. This is not a long term solution. So far I have yet to see a real long-term solution to this problem. But he seems to have taken away furloughs which has been seen as a forces pay cut and met with frustration from state worker's across the board.
Mr. Schwarzenegger also proposed ending the furloughs for state workers, which were begun last year by the administration and were overturned in part in court battles waged by some unions. In their place, the governor said that he would like to see 5 percent pay reductions across the board, and that he wanted state employees to contribute an additional 5 percent toward their retirement costs.
This plan doesn't seem to be a palatable one for most state workers who, until recently, expected security and pay raises. This was the norm and, speaking as a former state worker, the pay wasn't that good. It was really the job security and benefits that were attractive to job. This will hurt our system more than expected. I predict some major failings in the basic aspects of the State because of unhappy employees.

The Governor also seems to think that California can expect money from the federal government, about $7 billion. That means that he expects to get at LEAST $13 Billion in cuts that is coming on the tail end of the last budget cycle which saw tens of billions of dollars in cuts and tax increases. This includes the travesty of the essential shutting down of the Beverage Container Recycling Fund.

Most reputable new sources believe that we will not get these funds will either be hard to come by or non-existent.

The way Schwarzenegger has been going about it seems to be a bit whiny. To use a term of his, he sounds like a "whiny girly man."
In his budget plan and his State of the State address, Schwarzenegger attacked the federal health care overhaul and blamed Washington for not paying California its fair share in reimbursements and for overburdening the state with Medicaid regulations. Feinstein said in return, "California's budget crisis was created in Sacramento, not Washington."
According to this same article, the Governor has sent multiple letters to the California Delegation of Congress complaining of the unfair treatment of California regarding how much money we see. Within these letters he quotes Boxer and Feinstein vying for more money for the State. He also sends retaliatory notes seemingly directed at Boxer and other members of congress. This should come as no surprise based on some of his past actions, but it is not the way to advocate for our State. It has become such a problem that State Legislators have started to worry about their D.C. trip next week when delegates will approach Federal Representatives to Advocate for aid.
"We in the Legislature are used to that kind of talk from the governor,” Assembly Speaker Karen Bass said Tuesday. “I think we’ve built a good working relationship with our congressional delegation and the (Obama) administration, and I’m not sure why the governor would come in throwing punches at the people you want to help you.”
In fact, some say that there is no possibility of getting the near $7 Billion number that the Governor is expecting, partially because of this behavior.
California has an "almost non- existent" chance of reaping a $6.9 billion windfall from Washington, D.C. to reduce its deficit, nonpartisan Legislative Analyst Mac Taylor said Tuesday in his initial budget review.
The Legislative Analyst's Office(LAO) is highly regarded and trusted. So when a member of their office gives a report estimating at a "high estimate" of what the State is set to receive at $3 Billion - less than half what the Governor expects to make his economic plan feasible - it is time to take notice. The State is in trouble. We went from having one of the best education systems in the country to one of the worst We are at 49th out of 50th in states where the adult population has at least a high school education. This is unacceptable. Our economy and our people are suffering. Now is not the time for petty bickering and biting the hands that could possibly feed thousands.

I now want to point the direction of the conversation to money making. It is possible that marijuana may become legalized in the State of California. I am not talking about solely medical, but recreational for users 21 and up. If the bill passes (odds are it will see no more real action till next year) the state will be able to see swiftly upturning revenues as a result of taxing this newly legalized product.
It is estimated that the proposed $50 tax on each ounce of marijuana sold, along with license fees charged to cultivators, would generate $1.3 billion a year to be used to pay for drug education and treatment.
Imagine if the first 2 years of revenue from this bill actually went to paying off our debts? While this is not the $20 Billion we need, it is a start. Currently Medicinal Marijuana taxes are proving to be a huge "cash cow" for California and we need to examine the possibilities of this.

For those who are paying attention we need to look at the recent occurrences at the Prop. 8 trials. The U.S. Federal Court has started hearing the case to rule on Same-Sex Marriages and there are various sites and "live-blogs" to track this momentous occasion since the high court has decided to ban Television Stations and Youtube from the courtroom.

Something interesting should be brought to Caliornia's attention that was mentioned when Prop. 8 was first being voted on; Same-Sex marriage would bring in huge money for the state;
...same-sex weddings would generate more than $35 million in annual spending in San Francisco and produce millions of dollars in additional tax revenue... Edmund Egan, chief economist for the city and county of San Francisco, said he based his short-term projections on the revenue generated by more than 5,000 same-sex weddings in San Francisco during the five months in 2008 when gay marriage was legal.
So, what law makers have to here is come up with real, long term solutions instead of the shifty "legally dubious" budgets that borrow from sucessful programs and only work for the short term. We need to bring out State out of the fire and back to the greatness that we once had. We need to invest in growth and be creative. Perhaps legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriages to bring in new sources of revenue is what we need. For now, all I can say is that the people of California are upset and the ripples of this situation are going to be felt, in one way or annother, for a very long time.