How serious are we about fixing the deficit?

I apologize for the scarcity of posts. I won’t bore you with the details, but the end of the semester has been insanely busy. I hope to be back on a more regular schedule soon. This one will be quick and dirty.

I saw Joe Scarborough struggle to keep a straight face as he read this poll on his show, “Morning Joe.” It’s funny, but in a sad way. A McClatchy-Marist poll last week showed that an incredible 80% of all respondents opposed cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, two of the United States’ biggest entitlement programs. Wow! As for Democrats, 92% of them oppose those cuts, as do 75% of independents.

Tell me, how are those people planning to fix the deficit mess if they’re not willing to make changes to entitlement programs? Thank goodness we have the Republicans – shamed back to their conservative roots by the 2008 election – to show us the way. How many of them oppose cuts to Medicare and Medicaid? What’s that? Did you say 73%? Holy smokes.

Okay, so maybe the Tea Partiers will save us. Surely they will know we need to make fixes to our entitlement programs, reign in spending, etc. etc. etc.! How many of them oppose cuts? Wow. A whopping 70%. That’s a majority, holmes.

So the question, as the title of this post implies, is how serious are we about fixing the deficit? It’s looking like the answer is “not very.”

–QCFM

P.S. – The sign pictured is probably not legit, but something like this did happen. Check out this video, at about the 1:14 mark.

Friday Soundtrack, or We’re goin’ downtown! Springfield, alright!

For years it was just a dream, something that I’d daydream about as a kid. Minor league baseball in Springfield. I consider the Springfield-Ozark Mountain Ducks a dry run, as A) it wasn’t affiliated baseball and B) no matter what they called the team, it wasn’t in Springfield. Suffice it to say, then, that the spring and summer of 2005 was magical for me. Now an adult, with a family of my own, bona fide Minor League Baseball came to the Queen City in the form of the Springfield Cardinals, playing Double-A baseball in the Texas League.

It’s been everything I dreamed it could be. Scratch that, it’s been better. The team has made very few missteps in becoming a key piece of Downtown’s revival and a crucial thread in the community’s fabric. I can’t imagine how I ever enjoyed a summer without them. I never get to go as often as I’d like, but I’m never disappointed when I go. I’m not even going to try and explain the magic of a baseball game on a summer night. I could never do it justice.

The sport comes complete with its own anthem, as the crowd rises to sing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the middle of the seventh and, as a St. Louis Cardinals affiliate, there’s a secondary anthem, “Here Comes the King,” a nod to the club’s longstanding ties to Anheuser Busch, that follows in the eighth.

A couple of years ago, though, the team got an unofficial anthem courtesy of one of the latest and greatest band to come out of Springfield, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. They recorded a Springfield-centric song called “Cardinal Rules” – which, sadly, I’ve never heard at a game. But it’s on my iPod and it’s in heavy rotation.

So, with the ‘Birds in the midst of their season-opening homestand, I’ll share it with you now. Enjoy.

–QCFM

Debt fight! A game of honor and dimplomacy!

"...Debt fight! Tensions are high. Debt fight! Eye for eye.

I thought I might make a list of things I’m looking forward to over the next few weeks than I am the fight over the federal budget and our national debt. But that was taking too long, so I decided to make a list of things I’m dreading more than the budget/debt fight. But, I couldn’t come up with anything.

President Obama gave his speech outlining his deficit-reduction plan today, after Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) gave the GOP version. Commence finger pointing and name calling. Each side is accusing the other of not being serious about debt reduction. “There’s nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires,” said Obama. “The American people will not stand for (raising the debt limit) unless it is accompanied by serious action to reduce our deficit,” countered Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH).

Both the Republican Democrat plans estimate they can shave about $4 billion off the debt over the next 10-12 years, but – of course – they have very different ideas about how to get there. Both of those plans – also of course – cling to traditional party ideologies. Boehner was very revealing on Sean Hannity’s radio show this afternoon, claiming he did the best he could for his “team” during the negotiations to keep the government from shutting down last week and he’ll keep fighting for his team. It’d be nice if he was fighting for Americans, but whatever.

The Tanned One told Hannity that they won’t budge of tax cuts, a stance for which he was praised. Hannity frequently claims he wants an “all hands on deck” strategy when it comes to energy policy, including coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and green energies in working toward energy independence. He clearly doesn’t believe in the same approach when it comes to the deficit. None of the Republicans do, apparently. At a time when both sides agree it’s time to get “serious” about fixing our debt problem, it’s a shame Republicans are willing to take options off the table.

Raising taxes doesn’t have to be “soaking the rich,” as the Republicans call it. A small increase to the upper-level income earners can be a key piece of balancing our budget, and we don’t have to look any farther back than the Clinton administration. The top tax rate then – when we last had a balanced budget – was 39.6%. Under Obama it’s currently about 35%. Pushing it back up4.6% is hardly a soaking, especially when you consider it was 43.5% under Bush and went from 69.13% to 50% between 1981 and 1986 under Ronald Reagan. From there it went to 38.5% – close to the Clinton-era number – before falling to 28% over Reagan’s final 13 months.

But that alone isn’t going to fix things. Spending cuts are needed across the board, and it’s hard to imagine there should be any sacred cows right now. Democrats need to give some ground on Social Security, unemployment/welfare benefits, Medicare and Medicaid. Republicans need to allow meaningful cuts to our defense budget. World military expenditures reached an estimated $1.531 trillion in 2009. The U.S. was responsible for 46.5%. The next highest country was China, at 6.6%. In fact, you can add the expenditures of China, France, the U.K. and Russia and only come up with 18.1% Heck, add the next 10 countries to that total and you won’t equal what the U.S. spends on defense.

Defense, Social Security, unemployment/welfare, Medicare and Medicaid. That’s approximately 75.48% of the budget. None of them have to suffer too much if all of them suffer a little.

But there’s one big problem: 2012. There’s a big election coming and this fight over the deficit is going to be a prelude to what should be a particularly nasty election season. This will be all about team, not country. Don’t doubt that.

–QCFM

P.S. — If you don’t know where the title of this blog post came from, watch this: “Bat Fight,” on Funny or Die.

Friday Soundtrack, or a mental break

Oh, Régine.

Well, just when I thought it was safe to poke my head out again, here come the Republicans and Democrats to shut down the government over .17% of the federal budget. It’s the same games we’ve come to know and despise – an unrelated rider is attached to a bill, and the whole process of actually doing stuff grinds to a halt because of the unrelated rider. Beautiful, ladies and gents. Way to earn the paycheck.

Ugh.

I need a mental break. My latest checkout from the incredible Springfield-Greene County Library system is the Grammy-winning album “The Suburbs” by indie rockers Arcade Fire. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains) is my favorite track of the album, as they lovely Régine Chassagne coos over pulsing synth: “Living in the sprawl / Dead shopping malls rise like mountains beyond mountains / And there’s no end in sight / I need the darkness someone please cut the lights…”

Appropriate, I guess, since the federal government looks like it’s going dark for a little while. But I’m going to try not to think about that tonight and try to enjoy my weekend, at least for a little bit.

–QCFM

 

 

First they came for the menthols…

Courtesy: Chris MaddenThis Tuesday, April 5, I get to flex my democratic muscle once again. Love it! I’m pumped, even though my stance on one of the issues has drawn the ire of the other members of my household. I’ll explain.

One ballot measure, according to Springfield News-Leader reporter Amos Bridges, “would outlaw smoking indoors almost everywhere except private homes and vehicles, as well as outside in playgrounds and within 5 feet of prohibited areas.” I plan to vote “No” on this issue.

Full disclosure: I’m not a smoker. It’s been a good year since I’ve used tobacco of any kind, and there was another significant gap before that. And, contrary to the views of the News-Leader’s editorial board, I do understand that “the freedom of one person to smoke infringes on the personal liberty of others.” I also understand the health risk posed by tobacco use – even incredibly limited use like mine. I’m not denying that, like some opponents of the ban are (which I think is pretty ridiculous). To me this isn’t a public health issue. It’s a personal freedom issue.

I don’t mind outlawing smoking in bars and restaurants, hospitals and colleges, even playgrounds. That’s fine. What concerns me is the bill doesn’t allow exceptions for certain businesses, including tobacco shops. Supporters of the ban claim they are protecting workers and members of the public from the risks associated with secondhand smoke. That’s good. Most people, at some point, find it necessary to go into a restaurant or, even, take a job there. They shouldn’t have to be bombarded with secondhand smoke.

But a tobacco business, like Just for Him or The Albatross, isn’t like a restaurant. The average citizen could go their entire life and never set foot inside of those places, and the average citizen wouldn’t seek out employment in such a specialized shop unless they were interested in the product. Selling tobacco is perfectly legal, and the secondhand smoke in those businesses isn’t bothering anyone who doesn’t want to be bothered. But if the ordinance passes, both of those places will be forced to go smoke free, and The Albatross is likely out of business.

I don’t want to be responsible for that. Restrictions to protect public health are fine, but, when they force legal businesses to shut down, the civil libertarian in me gets uncomfortable, so I’m voting no. That means, according to the QCFW, I’m currently living in a house divided.

I’m also voting no on the ban on alcohol in family theaters. The News-Leader editorial board has my back on this one, calling it “unreasonable, and likely unenforceable.” This ballot measure seems aimed at Campbell 16 Cine, which has no history of troubles with alcohol. This, like the smoking ban, feels like an overreach.

But that’s just my opinion. Whatever your opinion is, make sure it’s heard Tuesday.

–QCFM