Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Democratic Gerrymandering

For the record, I think this sucks. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. (From Roll Call by way of dKos, unavailable without a subscription.)

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) has spoken with several Democratic governors in recent weeks about the possibility of revisiting their states' Congressional lines in response to the ongoing Republican-led redistricting in Georgia, according to informed party sources.

Faced with the prospect of Republicans redrawing Congressional lines in a third state since the initial 2001 round of redistricting ended, a faction of national Democrats is urging an aggressive strategy aimed at striking back at Republican House Members in states like New Mexico and Illinois.
That said, what are Democrats to do? Why should we play by the rules of once-a-decade redistricting when the GOP is perfectly willing to throw decorum out the window just to knock off their political opponents? Not taking advantage of this opportunity would be akin to defending ourselves with -- ahem -- spitballs. Right? So what should we do?

The answer, while neither immediately politically expedient nor easy to sell to the pissed-off-for-having-been-pissed-on grassroots, is nothing. The Democratic Party should not go down this road. The most important goal for the Democrats right now should not be petty political revenge or short term gains. Sure, we could peel off a few GOP-held Congressional seats in New Mexico and Illinois. But the long term goal of becoming the party of reform, the party of sound governance, and the party of the people is far more important.

As we've seen in Texas, redistricting is not a panacea. Voters in that state, while still leaning toward the GOP, are none too happy with the DeLay massacre of a few years ago. It's a fundamental turn-off -- a party that is willing to bend every rule in order to get what it wants. That's a very good thing in the long run for the Democratic Party.

Instead, the Democrats should make non-partisan Congressional district mapping part of the party platform. This is the way it's done in Iowa and that's the way that Schwarzenegger is proposing it should be done in Caulif... sorry, California. Are we serious going to cede the mantle of governmental honesty to the Governator?

Let's stand up as Democrats, proclaim ourselves mad as hell, and shout from the rooftops for non-partisan Congressional mapping. Sure, we may lose a handful of seats in the House in the short run, but we'll buy ourselves a lot of political capital with voters in the long run. And that -- not through some funky crooked mapping -- is how we regain the majority party status we enjoyed and took for granted for so long.

posted by Scott | 2/22/2005 | |

Is AARP Anti-Soldier And Pro-Gay Marriage?

That's what the White House wants us to believe, anyway.

Despite their cooperation with the Bush administration on the 'Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act of 2003', a group of Republican Social Security privateers calling themselves 'USA Next' has mounted an all-out assault on the American Association of Retired Persons. Their charge is that AARP is liberally biased. Here's the case they make:

Kos' take on this is that it's "Self-parody at its finest." I can see his point. As I wish I agreed, but I find it much more sinister than that. It stretches all bounds of decency, especially since the images it portrays have no relevance to any sort of truth behind the ad. It's one thing for USA Next to claim that AARP is liberal because it happens to like Social Security -- a program instituted by a liberal President and well-liked among liberals. I think it's a silly argument, but at least it has some basis in reality.

But AARP has absolutely nothing to do with military/defense policy or gay marriage! The 'real' AARP agenda is 'no to soldiers' and 'yes to men marrying each other'? What the hell?!?! And this is what the GOP does to an organization that cooperates with them! Why on earth, then, should Democrats be anything but so-called obstructionists?

How long is it going to be before the GOP is running ads that show crowds of Democrats next to images of the 9/11 hijackers that demand, "they must be stopped"? Actually, we've already seen that sort of thing, with images of Max Cleland morphed into Osama bin Laden.

Granted, I'm now going to hear about the images of Hitler morphed into Bush. As wrong as that was -- and it most certainly was wrong -- it's not an apt comparison. That ad was produced by one private citizen -- not MoveOn.org, as many people seem to believe. It was also roundly denounced by the Democratic Party structure and immediately removed from the contest it had been entered in. The image above is an ad that was directly produced by a conservative advocacy group and placed -- it's still running -- on the website of the conservative news magazine The American Spectator. There has been no denunciation of it by the Republican Party.

Essentially, this brutal machine controlling the GOP is demanding that all Americans either side with them or be considered the enemy. That's something you do at war -- not in a free and democratic society.

posted by Scott | 2/22/2005 | |

Monday, February 21, 2005

Hunter S. Thompson Is Dead

Not really too much for me to say about this. It's a pretty sad thing for anyone who's a fan of nontraditional journalism and writing in general. The world has lost a great voice.

posted by Scott | 2/21/2005 | |

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Another Regressive Flat Tax Scheme From The Privateers

Some pretty smart folks, like former Republican Marshall Wittmann have been warning since nearly the start of the Social Security privatization debate that the GOP could be setting up Democrats to fight for Social Security solvency only to pivot and go for a different goal, catching Democrats completely off guard.

Matt Yglesias caught what might just be that alternate the goal in a Knight-Ridder report about tax reform. Essentially, there's talk of scrapping the federal income tax system and Social Security payroll taxes in favor of a national sales tax of 30%.

Sales-tax advocates, whose ranks include House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, see Bush's initiative as a chance to build public support for their idea. Legislation to create a national sales tax already has been introduced in Congress.

The proposal would impose a 23 percent tax on all retail sales to replace revenues lost by eliminating the income tax and the 12.4 percent payroll tax that funds Social Security.
You'll notice that the number Knight-Ridder gives is 23% -- not the 30% I mentioned. What gives here? Yglesias explains it quite well.

This is based on an eccentric definition of "23 percent." Right now, the District has what we call a "5.75 percent sales tax." That means that if I buy something that costs $10, I need to pay $0.575 in taxes, for a total of $10.58. Thus, under the GOP plan, assuming we ignore the local tax, I should need to pay $2.30 in taxes on my $10 purchase. In fact, the proposal is for me to pay $3.00 in taxes. This is what normal people call a "30 percent tax on all retail sales." They get the 23 percent number by observing that out of an after-tax price of $13.00, the $3.00 in taxes is 23 percent of the total. There is a possible world in which a tax at this rate is called a "23 percent sales tax," but in the actual world it's what we call a "30 percent sales tax."
Talk about fuzzy math. This is one of the most ridiculous rate calculations I've ever seen. If any of you happen to know a math teacher, tell her that 23% of 10 is 3. Just see what she says.

The further explanation of this sales tax scheme involves monthly checks from the government as an allowance for necessary goods and services. When the hell did putting the entire nation on the government dole become a conservative value? But I digress. Yglesias has some great further knock-down of this proposal, even though he fails to mention that this is essentially a flat tax, at which the richest and the poorest would wind up paying the same tax rate.

After Bush's failure to explain accurately not only what is wrong with Social Security, but also his ideas to fix it, I would not be at all surprised to find out that this sales tax scheme will be his consolation prize. After the debacle of Social Security privatization, almost anything is bound to look good.

posted by Scott | 2/20/2005 | |


Often, I find myself getting so frustrated with lies I hear coming from some Republicans to support their viewpoints. Eventually, I relax, reminding myself that if you need to lie to support your position, your position must be pretty weak.

But maybe some of these Republicans actually deserve my pity rather than my scorn, anyway. For example, check out this quote from Congressman Chris Cox, Republican Representative of California's 48th District. He said this at this week's Conservative Political Action Conference, and apparently, no one took exception.

"We continue to discover biological and chemical weapons and facilities to make them inside Iraq."
It's hard to get too upset about being lied to when the liar is likely lying to himself as well. Then it's just sad.

This certainly seems to be the case for Rep. Cox.

posted by Scott | 2/20/2005 | |
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There Is No Crisis: Protecting the Integrity of Social Security
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