Thank You, Paul Ryan

According to numerous polls, including Gallup’s “Obama Job Approval” tracker, President Obama has solid approval from the American People.

The biggest reason: The GOP’s vote to essentially end Medicare as we know it and turn it into a voucher program. They can thank Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan for boosting the President’s ratings.

It turns out that the overwhelming majority of Americans (from Democratic to Republican) oppose leaving seniors to fend for themselves in the health insurance market (because, you know, insurance companies are falling over themselves to insure the elderly…).

It is obviously too early to predict the result of the 2012 Presidental Election. But, if the public reaction to Paul Ryan’s objectivist wet dream is any indication, President Obama may be in office until January 2017. Hopefully by then, we will have a path to citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, no more Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA – bans federal recognition of same-sex marriage), a steady and growing economy, and an end to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as our involvement in Libya.

So, I must say “thank you” to Paul Ryan for solidifying the difference between the two parties in the eyes of the American public. Not even President Obama could have hoped for something like this.

 

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My Two Cents on the 2010 California Ballot Propositions

I am not a fan of the ballot proposition but since I’m a voter I will take positions on them.

Prop 19 – “Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010” – NO

I oppose this but not for the obvious reason; it would create a regulatory fiasco with city governments able to set their own taxes and regulations. Marijuana needs to be decriminalized, not only because it’s a victimless crime with less adverse effects than alcohol and smoking but also because it would reduce the amount of time, energy and money that goes into prosecuting people with marijuana. Legalize it…but not this way.

Prop 20 – “California Congressional Redistricting Initiative” – NO

Back in 2008, Prop 11 established an independent commission (made up of people of different parties and loyalties) that would be responsible for carving out districts for the California Assembly and Senate. Now, supporters of Prop 20 want that commission to be responsible for carving out congressional districts as well. It sounds fair but I have major problems with it:

First: How much money will this commission cost? There is no set price tag.

Second: The commission would be selected by the legislature. So much for an “independent” commission.

Third: The commission would be unaccountable to the public. We would not be able to appeal or challenge newly drawn districts.

*This proposition also conflicts with Prop 27 (see Prop 27)

Prop 21 – “Vehicle License Fee for Parks Act” – YES

This would place an $18 license fee on most vehicle registrations (excludes vehicles registered under the Commercial Vehicle Registration Act). 85% of the money raised by this surcharge would go toward maintaining California’s public parks and beaches, saving the state $130 million a year. Saving the state’s public recreational areas is worth the fee.

Prop 22 – “The Local Taxpayer, Public Safety, and Transportation Protection Act” – NO

This proposition would prevent the state from tapping into the funds of local governments in California. It sounds great: Keep the state from robbing local government. However, even if the state is in a fiscal crisis (like the one we’re in now) and some cities have surpluses, Prop 22 would prevent the state from taking funds. This ties down the hands of a legislature that can only work with a fraction of the budget as it is.

Prop 23  – “Suspend AB 32, the Global Warming Act of 2006” – NO

As the title says, AB 32 (Global Warming Act of 2006) would be suspended under Prop 23. This is a mistake. We need to continue cutting down carbon emissions to lessen the effects of global warming on our planet and to help make our air cleaner. The time for action is now. Our future depends on decisions like these.

Prop 24 – “Repeal of Corporate Tax Breaks” – YES

This would prevent recent, governor-approved tax breaks from benefiting the top 2% of corporations in California, saving the state roughly $1.3 billion annually. This is simply another way for big business to evade taxes.

Prop 25 – “Majority Vote for the Legislature to Pass the Budget Act” – YES

Currently, California is one of a few states that requires the approval of 2/3 of the legislature to pass a budget. As we’ve seen, this has been disastrous and cost the state billions of dollars (California has not passed a budget on time for 23 years). Prop 25 brings approval down to a simple majority (at least 51%).

Prop 26 – “Supermajority Vote to Pass New Taxes and Fees Act” – NO

If you think that the budget is terrible now, wait until Prop 26 in implemented. This would reduce tax revenues for the state, reeking havoc on public services and programs.

Prop 27 – “Elimination of the Citizen Redistricting Commission” – YES

This initiative would eliminate the voter-approved Citizen Redistricting Commission (Prop 11 2008 – “Voters First Act”) and return redistricting power to the California Legislature.

What advantage does the legislature have over this commission? The Legislature answers to us; the Citizen Redistricting Commission (CRC) does not. If we disagree with the way a district is constructed, we can appeal and challenge it or vote our representatives out of office. We lose this with the CRC. We have no control over who is chosen for the commission; we do over the Legislature.

*If both Prop 20 and 27 pass, which ever has more votes becomes law.

Even though I’ll be voting on these initiatives, I’m still against propositions. One of the many reasons why California is in such a horrible condition is because the voters have become the law makers. California voters restrict the powers of the Legislature and then wonder why they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to.

The beauty of a representative democracy (republic) is that it produces effective and just government. We elect professionals to govern in place of us. If our representatives are doing poorly, we have the power to vote them out or demand their resignations…or impeachments.

Pure democracy produces chaos, ignorance and inequality. Whether driven by fear, anger or prejudice, the general public can enact disastrous policies that destroy budgets or deny a minority population their rights. Plato was onto something…

Hopefully, California will lead the nation by abolishing the initiative process.

Until then, vote intelligently.

 

President Obama’s Mixed Ratings

President Obama is average in ratings. According to the American public, he’s not doing a horrible job nor is he doing a fantastic one. In comparison to other presidencies, his is relatively popular.

According to USA Today and in collaboration with Gallup, President Obama has an approval rating of 41% (nearly 600 days in office). Six percent of people polled where either undecided or had no opinion. In other words, 51% of Americans – at least those in the group polled – disapprove of President Barack Obama’s performance.

The Tea Party and increasing amounts of Republicans seize on this and declare that he’s “very unpopular.” While 51% disapproval may seem unpopular (and it is), it is important to note that most Presidents typically have fluctuating performance ratings, especially 600 days into their first terms.

During this time in Bill Clinton’s presidency, he had an approval rating of 43% and a disapproval rating of 48%.

Ronald Reagan is recognized as being one of the nation’s most popular Presidents. In December 1988, Gallup recorded his approval at 63%. However, nearly 600 days into his first term, he had a 41% approval rating and a disapproval rating of 47%. (His lowest point was 35% approval nearly 750 days into his first term).

President Gerald Ford’s approval was around 46% with disapproval at 40%.

It is too early to tell whether President Obama will have a “successful” first term…but then again, who decides what is “successful?” Popularity isn’t necessarily the mark of a good presidency. Those who adore the President (Nancy Pelosi) will see the current numbers as evidence that many Americans are accepting of his executive agenda. And, of course, those who despise him (Rush Limbaugh) and suffer from Obama Derangement Syndrome (Glenn Beck) will see them as evidence of a so-called “revolution.”

The American people are a tough crowd to please, especially when they’re in the midst of a horrible recession and increasingly polarized politics. With both sides screaming at each other – in particular the right since they’re out of power right now – it can be difficult to stay level-headed. All in all, his performance is rather average and unimpressive.

Through all the rhetoric and propaganda, it’s important to keep perspective. As the President’s numbers fluctuate, keep in mind that they will continue to do so. Only time will tell how popular or unpopular the Obama presidency will be in history.

President Barack Obama - Photo credit: AP