Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is Chris Christie Trying to get Barack Obama Re-Elected?

Governor Christie may be a mean and heartless, and he has an ego the size of Mount Everest, so there’s no doubt in my mind that he wants to be President. But he’s also not stupid, and he knows that his chances are much better in 2016 than in 2012. But that can only happen if Barack Obama is re-elected next year.

If he runs for president now, Christie may fool many of the independent voters into supporting him due to the tepid performance by President Obama. But the governor knows that he will have difficulty with the radical base in the Republican Party. His appointment of a judge who happens to be a Muslim causes Republicans’ heads to explode, and the fact that Christie is a northeasterner rubs many in the GOP  the wrong way. A Christie entry into the 2012 presidential race would virtually guarantee the emergence of a third party radical Tea Partier which would split the Republican vote and give Obama a second term.

The biggest roadblock to an eventual Christie presidency would be the election of a Republican in 2012. Waiting to the end of a second Obama term in 2016 might seem to be a long time in political life, but the potential of a two-term Republican would leave Christie out of the picture until 2020 – an eternity in American electoral gamesmanship.

So why would 2016 be any different than2012? Christie may be counting on the American public and mainstream media waking up and realizing that the Tea Party is an extremist cult, whose members follow their leaders blindly even if it is against their self-interest. And like most cults, the Tea Party will self-destruct over the next few years.

So instead of running now, Christie is pandering to all factions in the Republican Party, fundraising and generating IOUs for future support. Like Sarah Palin, he is leveraging the idolatry from the press to his advantage. He will most certainly endorse the eventual candidate, but look for him to promote himself more than the candidate as he hits the campaign trail. And look for that little smirk on the SOB’s face when Barack Obama gets re-elected.

Sunday, September 25, 2011


It goes without saying that the President of the United States is a leader. But the current crop of Republican presidential candidates are not leaders, they are followers. They follow the racist, homophobic, and selfish incantations of the Tea Party and have no ideas of their own.

Regardless of political philosophy, a leader would not allow a soldier who served in Iraq to be booed the way one was in a Republican “debate.” A leader would not stand silent while a crowd cheered the concept that a man would die because he did not have medical care. Why didn’t Mitt Romney grab the microphone and lecture the audience, “We do not cheer the fact that a man can’t get medical care”? Why didn’t Rick Perry stop the debate, step out in front of the podium, and thank the soldier for his service?

At one time, I thought that Governor Chris Christie was the exception to the slate of potential Republican nominees who were bereft of leadership. Christie has certainly run roughshod over the Democratically-controlled legislature in the Garden State. But recent revelations about how Christie was led like a lap dog on the leash of the Koch Brothers show that, he too, is a follower and not a leader.

The last Republican president, George W. Bush, was also not a leader. He was the pawn of the Rove, Cheney, Koch axis of evil. Today, the nation is polarized and in desperate need of a true leader to fill the shoes of FDR and Ike.

On the leadership front, the Democrats are only marginally better. While Nancy Pelosi is one of the true leaders in Washington, President Obama has squandered the opportunity for leadership. He has kowtowed to the Republicans, adopting their policies, and continuing to allow them to put dogmatism in front of service. Can he leverage his skills to move from the category of “average” president to a true leader? Can the Republicans find a leader within their ranks to run for something other than President of the Tea Party States? For the sake of our children, let’s hope that a true leader emerges from the pack.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Where is the Outrage?

I didn’t join the cacophony of writers on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. I spent the day doing other things. It’s not that I don’t feel grief and sorrow for the thousands of people affected by the event. I do. But I feel more grief and sorrow for the greater impact that our politicians are imposing on America.

Every loss of human life is a tragedy, and the three thousand lost on that day are a terrible catastrophe. But, unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Consider, for example, the fact that since 9/11, 150,000 Americans have been murdered. And what are the root causes of murder? Poverty and easy access to guns. Yet, where is the outrage at the fact that the greatest country in the world has so many people who live in squalor, are being malnourished or starved, and have no way out? Where is the outrage that just about anyone can obtain a gun without any meaningful background check or safety training?

Consider also that 45,000 Americans die each year due to lack of affordable health care. Instead of outrage, the Republicans are trying to reverse the baby steps we have taken to mitigate the death spiral that these Americans are caught in. Where is the outrage?

Consider that more Americans have died in the unjustified wars started by Bush and perpetuated by Obama than died on that horrible Tuesday a decade ago. And add hundreds of thousand Iraqi and Afghani lives to that terrible roster.  Certainly their lives are equally as precious. Where is the outrage?

Consider the death penalty. America joins North Korea, Syria, and Iran as a country that kills its own citizens in the name of justice – including many who are innocent. Where is the outrage from the so-called pro-life community?

No amount of jingoism and flag-waving will mitigate our sorrow or fix these problems. Instead, we need politicians and leaders who pursue help for the downtrodden and real opportunity for all Americans, not just the elite few.

So when you think about what Osama Bin Laden did to us a decade ago, remember those who perished in the towers, the Pentagon, and on the airplanes. But keep in mind that their lives are no less precious than those of the tens of thousands who die each year because of the disregard that our politicians – especially but not exclusively Republicans – have for America’s citizens.

Taylor Rental gets 9/11 right

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The (Redistricting) Calm Before the Storm

Yesterday's meeting of the New Jersey Congressional Redistricting Committee was one of the calmest sessions I have witnessed in the State House, but don't be fooled. With the loss of one seat in Congress, this commission's deliberations are bound to heat up and provide us with some fireworks.

The session was a formality, with no substantive issues discussed. By-laws were adopted and a Committee Secretary was appointed. The committee, which consists of six Democrats, six Republicans, and a mutually-agreed-upon independent tiebreaker, will re-draw the congressional election districts based on the population shifts enumerated in the 2010 U.S. Census.

There will be at least three public hearings, where advocacy groups can go on record and suggest parameters for the new maps. The first will be at Rutgers-Camden on September 22, and two others will be scheduled, most likely on the Rutgers campuses in New Brunswick and Newark.

State Democratic Party Chairman Assemblyman John Wisniewski led a similar effort earlier this year to redraw the lines of New Jersey's legislative districts. I spoke with him at the meeting about his views on the redistricting process:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Third World Health Care - First Class Disgrace

François is a refugee, one of 27,000 from Côte d'Ivoire living in a camp in eastern Liberia. His kidneys are failing and he needs dialysis three times per week. But he can’t receive dialysis under Liberia’s third-world health care system and if he’s lucky he’ll get emergency treatment when his health deteriorates to the point where he is at death’s door.

A typical response to this story is, “Oh, that’s terrible. The poor man is suffering, but that’s the way things are in third-world countries.”

Yet, this story is only partially true. His name is not François. The part about his being without care until he is close to death is true, but he is not a refugee in Liberia – he is an undocumented immigrant living in the United States of America.

François lives in Atlanta, Georgia, where a hospital recently turned away immigrants in need of dialysis. For everyone else, Medicare would cover the cost of the procedure, but despite the words of Emma Lazarus that are indelibly etched on the Statue of Liberty, undocumented immigrants are not eligible to participate in the program. According to a recent article in the New York Times, such patients were “advised to wait until their condition deteriorated enough to justify life-saving care in an emergency room.” Charity care is out of the question, because the hospitals are broke. So under our current system of health care, a patient with renal failure must put his life in jeopardy, wait until he is near death, and then consume precious and expensive emergency room resources instead of scheduling a nearly-routine procedure.

I suppose the plight of an undocumented immigrant needing dialysis in Atlanta is marginally better than that of a refugee in Liberia. After all, the United States ranks 37th in health care (despite being number one in per capita spending), while Liberia is 186th. But the gap is closing.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act was a step in the right direction, but only an incremental improvement. While the elimination of pre-existing conditions as an excuse to deny coverage and the extension of dependents’ health coverage to age 26 were improvements, even those baby steps are under assault from the Republican Tea Party. Obama’s near-total capitulation to the insurance lobby virtually guarantees more obscene profits and CEO salaries while America’s health care system becomes more like that of Liberia than that of our European allies.

While the advocates for the best option, single-payer, were not even allowed to participate in the debates and negotiations, even their approach would not have been enough. What this nation needs is a Health Care Marshall Plan. After World War II, America spent billions of peace-dividend dollars rebuilding Europe. Now is the time to spend even more to rebuild America’s health care system. We not only need to make our health care payment system more efficient and less expensive with single payer, but we also need to invest in making the medical-industrial complex more efficient. We need to leverage technology to bring down costs and reduce medical accidents. We need to make medical school affordable to anyone who has the ability to become a doctor or other health professional. And we need to regain the lead in world-wide medical research and development.

All of this costs money, but it’s money we have. It’s money we are wasting on frivolous wars and their ancillary costs. We need to stop these wars – not in ten years, not in five years, but as soon as it is physically possible to bring our troops and equipment home. We need to restore the incremental tax level to that which we had during our years of prosperity. And we need to prosecute and incarcerate the criminals in the insurance and finance industries as vigorously as we prosecute minorities and others for minor crimes.

Only an America which provides quality health care to all – regardless of race, economic status, or citizenship – is the America that our immigrant ancestors would be proud of. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Deciminyan's First Law

It’s probably been said before, but I’ll call it Deciminyan’s First Law anyway:
When there’s an election between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, the Republican always wins.
This was amply demonstrated in my own congressional district in 2010, when my Democratic Congressman, the late John Adler, a Harvard-educated, fiercely intelligent and experienced legislator was defeated by a football player who raises donkeys to avoid taxes. Adler, who had a reputation as a liberal legislator when he served in the State House in Trenton, moved to the right and was one of a small number of Democrats who voted against providing health care for millions of Americans. Now, Barack Obama is following in Adler’s footsteps, and that tells me that Obama will be a one-term president. Here’s why.

While the health care bill debate was punctuated with faux rage from the insurance companies, in essence the law is a gift to the profit-making entities. Subsidies to these for-profit companies will ensure their stock price and executive bonuses will rise while Americans still are afforded a second-rate health insurance system. A single-payer system would have been the best solution, as evidenced by the results in the 36 nations that exceed the United States in this area, but the president succumbed to the corporatists and Tea Party by taking single-payer off the table even before negotiations began.

The president has demonstrated his Republican DNA by his shocking pre-holiday nullification of his own EPA’s clean air standards. Succumbing to the pressure from corporations while ignoring scientists is a hallmark of the Republican agenda, and President Obama has joined that chorus. The rationale is allegedly to save money (read: put more profits in corporate coffers), while the additional billions in medical costs from increased lung and other diseases are ignored, as is the human suffering that will result from dirty air. The jobs argument is also specious because the effort to improve air quality would have spawned job growth as much, if not more, than letting dirty fuels prevail.

From a strategic political point of view, this decision is also a bad one. The pro-pollution crowd is not one that would vote for Obama in 2012, anyway. And by alienating the sensible moderates and the progressive wing of his party, Obama has guaranteed that those people will stay home on Election Day, giving us the nightmare of a President Perry.