The vast majority of Americans understand the nation has to stop spending and borrowing so much money. At $16 trillion, the annual expense for just the interest on the debt alone costs more than twice the amount collected from ALL CORPORATE INCOME TAXES. So while politicians argue endlessly about changes to the tax code and what is or is not a ‘fair share,” they ignore the elephant in the room – deficits that require we add more and more money to the debt are dwarfing the gains we may get from marginal tax increases. Our deficit spending is unsustainable and everyone knows it. Yet, so many politicians don’t focus on resolving this most critical issue because resolution is hard and potentially unpopular. Still they know, even if they won’t always admit it, we cannot keep kicking this issue down the road by talking about something else. At some point, and that point is coming soon, there will be so many cans down the road, we can’t kick this one anywhere. The longer the resolution is put off, the more difficult it is going to be.
The fiscal cliff we hear about these days is actually the off ramp to the fiscal abyss we have been hearing about for years. The cliff is the meeting of several laws enacted by Congress and the Administration that would dramatically cut government budgets and significantly increase taxes all at the same time in January 2013. This would probably send the nation into a deep recession or even a depression. But if we had solved the larger federal deficit and debt issues BEFORE, there would have been no need for most of these fiscal cliff laws in the first place. Solving the near term fiscal cliff issue only postpones the off ramp. Unless we deal with the underlying federal deficit and debt crisis, we are just moving on down the road to the next exit.
We think wrong if we think governments are immune to the same economic forces that shape our lives. When any of us have too little income chasing too many bills, we cut back, work second jobs or borrow to make ends meet. But when that is not enough and we either can’t borrow anymore or the cost of borrowing is too great, we go bankrupt. It’s the same with governments. The difference is government can postpone belt tightening by hiding debt longer, issuing IOUs called bonds and by printing more money. In the end, however, that drives the value of the money down, the prices we pay for goods and services goes up, borrowing gets more difficult and government has to cut back on its services anyway. The price of gas is an example of the first. Greece is an example of the last. Governments can delay the impact of economic realities, but they can’t escape them. Neither can any of us.
A strong indicator as to whether a sitting president will be reelected for a second term is his approval rating. The lowest approval rating a candidate has ever had while still managing to be reelected is 48%. 48% of Americans approved of the job George W. Bush was doing when he was reelected as president in 2004. In 1980 President Carter’s approval rating was just over 30% when he lost reelection. George H.W. Bush had an approval rating of 43% when he lost reelection in 1992. According to Gallup, the most recent approval rating for President Obama is 49%. This number is up from a year ago when his approval rating was 38% but is down from 3 weeks ago when his rating was 54%. Over the next two weeks his approval rating should level out assuming there are no foreign policy or economic crises. It is Gov. Mitt Romney’s job to make the case that voters should not approve of the job the President has been doing for the past few years and explain why he is a better choice. With early voting underway in several swing states, time is of the essence for both candidates to make their case to the American people. On November 7th we’ll see if the historical trend holds true and if enough Americans approved of the job the President is doing and decided to give him another four years.
This year’s election has extensive national and global implications. Voters not only are determining who control’s our country’s highest office, but they will also determine which parties control each chamber of Congress at a time when legislative progress is critical to the recovery of our nation’s economy.
However, as most politicos know, all politics is local. In several states, statewide ballot issues will be driving turnout just as much, if not more, than federal contests. Below is a list and summary of just a few of those issues having an impact at a local level.
Maryland voters are considering Question 7, which if passed would expand gambling in the state of Maryland by authorizing a gambling facility in Prince George’s County. The facility will be allowed to operate “table games” and video lottery terminals. The taxes and fees generated by Question 7 would be used to fund education in Maryland. This has become a major election issue with large spending on both sides of this issue.
Supported by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, Amendment 64 will legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana for personal use for adults over the age of 21. If passed, the amendment will also allow the possession of up to 6 marijuana plants to be home-grown for personal use. The amendment creates a regulatory structure to control and tax marijuana sales and distribution and creates regulations for industrial hemp production. Opponents of Amendment 64 highlight marijuana’s negative effects on young people and that the amendment conflicts with federal laws against the possession, distribution, and use of marijuana.
Prop 2 and Prop 4
Michigan voters are considering two proposals pushed and funded by organized labor. Proposal 2, known as the “Protect our Jobs” Amendment, if passed would enact a constitutional amendment changing collective bargaining law and invalidate existing or future state or local laws that limit union membership or collective bargaining. Additionally, the amendment will override any state laws that conflict with collective bargaining agreements in regards to hours and conditions of employment. Proposal 4 would allow in-home care workers to collectively bargain. There is deep concern among opponents, principally the Michigan Chamber of Commerce and Governor Rick Snyder, that these proposals will place Michigan at severe economic disadvantage compared to other states.
Virginia voters will consider a constitutional amendment that would restrict eminent domain to be used solely for public use. Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli is a supporter of the proposed amendment and the Virginia Farm Bureau has also come out in support of the amendment. The opposition includes the Virginia Association of Counties and the Virginia Municipal league.
This measure would require food labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specific ways. The issue has created concerns among the food and grocery industry in California as well as the California Farm Bureau. California’s Democratic party is a supporter of the measure.
5. Voting is our civic duty.
4. Close margin races are decided by a handful of votes all the time.
3. The right to vote is a sacred right that not everyone has.
2. You can’t complain about a candidate or the country’s future if you don’t vote.
1. We have the power to choose America’s leadership and contribute to a better future for our country, ourselves and our family.
We used to talk about the debt as a problem for our grandkids, and then we said it’s not our grandkids so much as it is our kids. It should be obvious now to everyone that it’s not our kids it’s US! According to a member of the President’s National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, unless and until we do something to fix the fiscal cliff, the debt, and entitlement and the tax reform, the value of everything you own will go down anywhere from 30 to 50% in a relatively short amount of time. This is serious and means suddenly, gas prices go up, prices of clothing go up, the prices of food go up and wages don’t go anywhere. A lot of people might say “that’s what’s going on right now.” Well…take what is going on right now and multiply it that is what is going to happen and everyone knows it.
There are those who last year thought when the sequestration (the fiscal cliff) was put into the Budget Control Act, that it was so glaring that there was no way anyone was going to allow that to happen, who are now saying “ok and go ahead and let that happen.” It is still glaring and the reason it was put into the Budget Control Act in the first place was to force Congress through the Super Committee to do what it should have been doing for the years prior, which is to force Congress to do something about the fiscal cliff. Congress failed, the Super Committee failed and now we are presented with this sequestration.
So where are we now? Congress is gone and they are going to try to address this in lame duck. The chemistry in a lame duck is very challenging to work in, so there are no guarantees of success, and America is left starting down the barrel of a financial disaster that is not just a 6 or 9 month thing but a fundamental crisis.
This is not a surprise! Democrats know it, republicans know it, conservatives know it, and liberals know it. They all know it and yet we have a campaign going on that is talking about anything and everything else… Big Bird, why Obama was on the view, what Bain Capital did 15 years ago rather than this financial collapse which is imminent.
Recent State Court Decisions Strike Down Voter ID Laws While Public Supports Voting Protections
In 2012, a number of states have attempted to pass election laws requiring voters to show a photo ID when voting. The laws are all backed by Republicans and have been passed in Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and South Carolina as an attempt to prevent voter fraud. However, all of them have faced opposition in the courts with varying results.
A September 8-12 nationwide poll conducted by CBS News/New York Times showed that 70% of voters supported “efforts to require voters to show a photo identification card to vote” while 28% opposed voter ID measures. The poll shows that 76% of Independents, 94% of Republicans and 48% of Democrats support voter ID laws. Recent efforts to enact voter ID laws have become a political hot potato and have polarized elected Republicans and Democrats on an issue that at one time found bipartisan support as currently seen in polling numbers among voters.
According to data from the non-partisan National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), 27 states have passed voter ID laws that will be used in the 2012 election with another 6 states passing voter ID laws that will be used starting in 2013 pending final approval from either a court or state legislature.
Pennsylvania voters will technically be asked to show a photo ID on Election Day, but they won’t be turned away if they don’t have one. The court essentially ruled that it won’t be enforced until after the election. Wisconsin’s voter ID law was ruled unconstitutional in March by a Circuit Court Judge and again by another judge in July.
Newly passed voter ID laws in New Hampshire and Virginia were given pre-clearance by the Department of Justice and will be in effect this November.
Due to the Voting Rights Act, Texas and South Carolina need approval from the Justice Department or a special panel of federal judges in Washington if they want to change election procedures. A federal panel unanimously ruled against the Texas law at the end of August due to a provision in the enacted legislation that would have potentially imposed too high of a financial requirement for some voters.
The ruling on South Carolina’s law was similar to the one in Pennsylvania. The bipartisan, three judge panel in Washington upheld the law and established it as constitutional, saying there was nothing inherently discriminatory in the law. However, voters won’t be asked to show a photo ID this election. The law won’t officially be fully enforced until next election cycle.
The issue of having voters present photo identification to register to vote and to actually vote will continue at statehouses across the country over the next few years. The likelihood that additional cases will head to the U.S. Supreme Court remains high and look for the Court to attempt to provide clarity on one of the hottest issues in election matters.
There is a time for politics and a time for governing. The time for politics is over the time for governing is upon us.