Thursday, April 28, 2011

10 Questions to Help You Get Up to Speed on Michele and Timmy's Nuptial

Organizers have made plans to accommodate 2 billion "guests" from all over the world. Even more important: The souvenir tea bags have been printed.

So it seems that everything is in place for the grandest wedding of the century: Friday's marriage of Iowa's Prince Michele of the House of Horrors to Miss Timithina "T-Paw" Pawlenty.

But even the most loyal Tea Bag fan (we see you out there waving your little tea bags) may have questions about this intricate ceremony. So here we answer "10 Questions about Minnesota's Royal Wedding Bash":

1) Who are these people?

Michele is next in line to inherit the Republican crown after her forefather George W, the Prince of Idiots, son of George Bush I and his wife, Barbara the mugger in pearls. If the regular succession plan holds, some day Michele will be Minnesota's king with Timithina bearing a title that the Minnesota government won't even speculate on until it all happens, but rumored to be Vice President.

2) What time does the official ceremony start?

The church ceremony starts at 11 a.m. Friday, 5 a.m. Minnesota time. Guests have been told to arrive at least 20 minutes before that. Crowds will be congregating officially at the site starting about 2 a.m. Minnesota time.

3) What will Timmy's gown look like?

It is one of the best-kept secrets in Minnesota history. No one outside the designer staff and the wedding party knows. If we knew, we'd tell you here. But then the secret service guys would show up and bang on the door of the bathroom where we ran to hide.

But if we had to guess, we'd bet that this will be a form-fitted white or ivory gown, without feathers - in keeping with Timmy's tailored tastes. The train will be in proportion to the gown, unlike Diana's jaw-dropping 25-foot train that had all the maneuverability of an oil tanker. We're guessing - and again it is only a guess - the designer will be Steve McQueen's creative director, Tim Burton, or designers at Herbergers or at Lula.

Then again: Who's to say there is just ONE wedding dress? Some estimates say there are three already on hangers, waiting for Tim's last-minute choice.

Rumor has it that his headpiece will be fresh lady slippers, not a tiara, all the better to relate to his non royal South St. Paul roots. Again, no confirmation until Friday. But we can assure you that Tim will NOT be wearing some of his signature clothing items: plaid skirts or cowboy boots.

4) What will Michele wear?

She is expected to wear a uniform from one of the White Supremacist para military services.

5) How much will the wedding cost and who foots the bill?

No one is saying exactly how much the wedding will cost, though St. Paul's Pioneer Press Dispatch has estimated the bill will come to about $10 million or the cost of removing 30,000 vulnerable adults from Minnesota Care.

6) Why are they getting married at Mount Olivet Lutheran Church in Minneapolis?

According to an official release: "The couple were moved to choose the venue because of its beauty, its history and - despite the overall size of its congregation - the relative intimacy of the area around the High Altar. Besides the money that can be raised from the offering plates will really line our campaign coffers nicely"

7) What about the bridal couple's jewelry?

The Tea Baggers have fitted Michele with nipple rings with which they plan on making her dance like a marionette. Timmy still has his nose ring which the Republican National Committee uses to yank him along to the party's drumbeat.

But there's been a break from tradition this time: The palace revealed that the prince has chosen not to wear a "Prince Albert".

8) What's the dress code for guests?

According to a palace etiquette guide sent to guests: "Wearing the right Twins hat and not overdoing it is important. Wearing Packer Green or Gold is not appropriate. That must be left to the bride. Men in the Armed Forces should wear uniform and male civilians a leisure suit (track suit) . The Twins hat should be carried, not worn, inside the church."

For women, the dress code means a snazzy pant suit, or Capri's with a jacket, with hat and gloves, boat shoes and a matching backpack.

9) Why does T-Paw wave like that?

There are several possible answers. The most credible has to do with regal restraint and grace. The slightly cupped hand isn't the open-palmed flying fingers most of us use. However, like his in-bred effeminate cousin and Governor from our Cheesehead neighbor state, Scotty Walker, it is rumored that Timithina, like Scotty has extremely thin, effeminate wrists.

10) How will ordinary 'Sotans be celebrating the wedding?

The wedding day has been declared a State holiday in Minnesota, so most people, including yours truly, have the day off work.

What to do? Street party!

No less a personage than Garrison Keillor is urging Minnesotans to organize street parties across the state and has ordered local authorities to scrap the usual red tape about closing roads. The result is that there have been more than 4,000 applications for street parties in the state, with more than 2 million expected to boogie-til-you-puke.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Calling All Birthers, Tea Baggers, Trumpster, Dittoheads, Beck, Hannity and Other Know Nothings: Now You Will Have To Run On the Issues

Now that the White House has released the long form of President Obama's birth certificate what will you do to distract the the great unwashed, the TMZ, American Idol and Dancing with the Stars crowd now that you can no longer blow smoke up the behinds of stupid people with you racist lies about the President's place of birth?

Will you actually discuss your plans to dismantle the social safety net in this country so you can give your never ending tax cuts to the privileged few who contribute millions to your campaign coffers, which tax cuts are then borne on the backs of hard working Americans? Will you show the American Public the effects that your Republican tax cuts have had on the ever growing inequality in the distribution of wealth in this country?

Will you point out to the American public that the President's cautious approach to Libya and decision not to arm the rebels was the correct one in light of the most recent batch of Wikileaks which revealed that one of the rebels military leaders, Abdul-Hakim al-Hasadi, is an ex Gitmo prisoner and Al Qaeda member?

(Way to go John McCain, Glenn Beck Sean Hannity and other critics of President's Libyan policy! Unlike president GW Bush, President Obama doesn't rush into armed interventions that benefit our strategic enemies at the expense of American blood and treasure, i.e. Iraq.)

Hopefully today will mark the beginning of the Great Awakening: the rejection of the trivial, the refusal to be distracted and the return to focusing on the serious issues which face the nation. This necessarily requires honest public discourse on the actual facts of the given issue or situation.

If we are ever going to come up with successful solutions to our serious problems we no longer have the luxury of ignorance or intellectual laziness. The majority of the public has to start paying attention and stop accepting as truths the litany of lies perpetuated by Republicans since the days of Ronald Reagan: Trickle Down economics are a farce, tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy and investor class do not benefit small business nor create jobs. The economic health of America is tied to the economic health of an upwardly mobile and prosperous working and middle class. Stop voting against your economic interests and supporting candidates who only offer you platitudes and lectures on morality. You cannot legislate morality and those that harp on moral issue invariably turn out to be hypocrites. Amen.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Puke & Snot: Pawlenty Iowa Campaign Worker Arrested

The news wire services were abuzz earlier this month with reports of another in the long list of disturbing cases of hypocrisy on behalf of those paragons of family values and law and order types, the Republican Party. Reading like a page out of failed Minnesota Gubernatorial candidate and multiple DWI offender, Tom Emmer's past, the first staffer hired by the Pawlenty for President Committee in Iowa, 24 year-old Alabaman Benjamin Limbaugh Foster, was arrested in the early morning hours of April 6, 2011 attempting to break into the downstairs of a home in Ankeny, Iowa.

Much to the horror of the owners 15 year-old daughter, the besotted Foster, in a move that is sure to endear his candidate, former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, in the hearts of all Iowejuns, was attempting to force his way into the home thinking it was the residence he had been temporarily staying at, that is before becoming a resident of the local county jail. Only problem was, that the residence the T-Paw worker had been using as a temporary base of operations was over 10 miles away. Woops!

When Ankeny police arrived shortly after 3 A.M. they found the father of the 15 year old holding the now puking Pawlenty campaign worker at gunpoint on the front lawn. Complicating matters is the fact that despite their locating a car with Bama plates parked just down the street and Foster initially admitting to them that he had been out drinking and driving, the local constables only charged the inimical threat to public safety with public intoxication and trespassing. You don't think the fact that this Des Moines suburb is a Republican stronghold could have anything to do with the gross undercharging in the criminal case now do you?

Well at least we could count on the "take responsibility for ones own actions" crowd to mete out the appropriate punishment for this heinous offense right? You be the judge. The press release from the Pawlenty campaign read:

"Governor Pawlenty is extremely disappointed in Ben's actions and his behavior does not meet the standards he expects of his employees. Therefore the committee is placing Ben on a two-week unpaid suspension and expects him to bear the legal consequences for his actions."

Besides, my former law school classmate and Presidential candidate must have thought to himself, maybe the kid was suffering from a case of swine flu? Yeah Governor, that would be swine of the Republican variety.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Full Text of President Obama's Fiscal Policy and Deficit Reduction Speech at GW

By sheer happenstance I was lucky enough to have the day off today and was able to catch President Obama's entire speech live on my local NPR station (KNOW aka Minnesota Public Radio, of which I am a proud member). As someone who was self-employed for over twenty years, this may not seem like a big deal. But after working for a large corporation for more than three years now, my time is no longer my own. Although the benefits of working for a large organization and being part of something bigger than ones self, especially one with an exemplary corporate culture and ethic such as mine, I do miss being able to have public radio on in the background throughout my day.

So it was a real treat for me to be able to listen live to what will go down in history as one of the President's greatest moments. Widely recognized, even by his most vocal critics, as a great speech writer and a communicator on par with President Reagan, the President spoke directly to the average American in his usual frank and honest fashion, and put into context, both historically and philosophically, the current state of the federal deficit and national debt, an issue so large and complex that few politicians would have the temerity to even attempt. Not only did the President rise to the challenge, to any observer with an open mind and a grasp of the cold hard facts, he slam dunked it.

But what still gives me the willies is that part of the President's speech, which came early on, where he laid out his values, which values form the foundation for his approach to deficit reduction and forms the basis for his budget plan. But these were not just "Obama values" or "Obama Care" as his opponents so disrespectfully refer to the landmark Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. No, said values are American values and if you don't believe it just read on.

In words eerily almost identical to the ones I spoke extemporaneously to my friend and colleague Bridget late last week at work in describing my political philosophy, right down to the verbatim quote "...there by the grace of God go I...". And I am not talking about just that much parroted phrase but the whole philosophy behind it. So with God and Bridget as my witnesses, I give you the full text of the President's speech, with credit to me, his clairvoyant co-writer:

"Good afternoon. It's great to be back at GW. I want you to know that one of the reasons I kept the government open was so I could be here today with all of you. I wanted to make sure you had one more excuse to skip class. You're welcome.

Of course, what we've been debating here in Washington for the last few weeks will affect your lives in ways that are potentially profound. This debate over budgets and deficits is about more than just numbers on a page, more than just cutting and spending. It's about the kind of future we want. It's about the kind of country we believe in. And that's what I want to talk about today.

From our first days as a nation, we have put our faith in free markets and free enterprise as the engine of America's wealth and prosperity. More than citizens of any other country, we are rugged individualists, a self-reliant people with a healthy skepticism of too much government.

But there has always been another thread running throughout our history - a belief that we are all connected; and that there are some things we can only do together, as a nation. We believe, in the words of our first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, that through government, we should do together what we cannot do as well for ourselves. And so we've built a strong military to keep us secure, and public schools and universities to educate our citizens. We've laid down railroads and highways to facilitate travel and commerce. We've supported the work of scientists and researchers whose discoveries have saved lives, unleashed repeated technological revolutions, and led to countless new jobs and entire industries. Each of us has benefited from these investments, and we are a more prosperous country as a result.

Part of this American belief that we are all connected also expresses itself in a conviction that each one of us deserves some basic measure of security. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, hard times or bad luck, a crippling illness or a layoff, may strike any one of us. "There but for the grace of God go I," we say to ourselves, and so we contribute to programs like Medicare and Social Security, which guarantee us health care and a measure of basic income after a lifetime of hard work; unemployment insurance, which protects us against unexpected job loss; and Medicaid, which provides care for millions of seniors in nursing homes, poor children, and those with disabilities. We are a better country because of these commitments. I'll go further - we would not be a great country without those commitments.

For much of the last century, our nation found a way to afford these investments and priorities with the taxes paid by its citizens. As a country that values fairness, wealthier individuals have traditionally born a greater share of this burden than the middle class or those less fortunate. This is not because we begrudge those who've done well - we rightly celebrate their success. Rather, it is a basic reflection of our belief that those who have benefitted most from our way of life can afford to give a bit more back. Moreover, this belief has not hindered the success of those at the top of the income scale, who continue to do better and better with each passing year.
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Now, at certain times - particularly during periods of war or recession - our nation has had to borrow money to pay for some of our priorities. And as most families understand, a little credit card debt isn't going to hurt if it's temporary.

But as far back as the 1980s, America started amassing debt at more alarming levels, and our leaders began to realize that a larger challenge was on the horizon. They knew that eventually, the Baby Boom generation would retire, which meant a much bigger portion of our citizens would be relying on programs like Medicare, Social Security, and possibly Medicaid. Like parents with young children who know they have to start saving for the college years, America had to start borrowing less and saving more to prepare for the retirement of an entire generation.

To meet this challenge, our leaders came together three times during the 1990s to reduce our nation's deficit. They forged historic agreements that required tough decisions made by the first President Bush and President Clinton; by Democratic Congresses and a Republican Congress. All three agreements asked for shared responsibility and shared sacrifice, but they largely protected the middle class, our commitments to seniors, and key investments in our future.

As a result of these bipartisan efforts, America's finances were in great shape by the year 2000. We went from deficit to surplus. America was actually on track to becoming completely debt-free, and we were prepared for the retirement of the Baby Boomers.

But after Democrats and Republicans committed to fiscal discipline during the 1990s, we lost our way in the decade that followed. We increased spending dramatically for two wars and an expensive prescription drug program - but we didn't pay for any of this new spending. Instead, we made the problem worse with trillions of dollars in unpaid-for tax cuts - tax cuts that went to every millionaire and billionaire in the country; tax cuts that will force us to borrow an average of $500 billion every year over the next decade.

To give you an idea of how much damage this caused to our national checkbook, consider this: in the last decade, if we had simply found a way to pay for the tax cuts and the prescription drug benefit, our deficit would currently be at low historical levels in the coming years.

Of course, that's not what happened. And so, by the time I took office, we once again found ourselves deeply in debt and unprepared for a Baby Boom retirement that is now starting to take place. When I took office, our projected deficit was more than $1 trillion. On top of that, we faced a terrible financial crisis and a recession that, like most recessions, led us to temporarily borrow even more. In this case, we took a series of emergency steps that saved millions of jobs, kept credit flowing, and provided working families extra money in their pockets. It was the right thing to do, but these steps were expensive, and added to our deficits in the short term.

So that's how our fiscal challenge was created. This is how we got here. And now that our economic recovery is gaining strength, Democrats and Republicans must come together and restore the fiscal responsibility that served us so well in the 1990s. We have to live within our means, reduce our deficit, and get back on a path that will allow us to pay down our debt. And we have to do it in a way that protects the recovery, and protects the investments we need to grow, create jobs, and win the future.

Now, before I get into how we can achieve this goal, some of you might be wondering, "Why is this so important? Why does this matter to me?"

Here's why. Even after our economy recovers, our government will still be on track to spend more money than it takes in throughout this decade and beyond. That means we'll have to keep borrowing more from countries like China. And that means more of your tax dollars will go toward paying off the interest on all the loans we keep taking out. By the end of this decade, the interest we owe on our debt could rise to nearly $1 trillion. Just the interest payments.

Then, as the Baby Boomers start to retire and health care costs continue to rise, the situation will get even worse. By 2025, the amount of taxes we currently pay will only be enough to finance our health care programs, Social Security, and the interest we owe on our debt. That's it. Every other national priority - education, transportation, even national security - will have to be paid for with borrowed money.

Ultimately, all this rising debt will cost us jobs and damage our economy. It will prevent us from making the investments we need to win the future. We won't be able to afford good schools, new research, or the repair of roads and bridges - all the things that will create new jobs and businesses here in America. Businesses will be less likely to invest and open up shop in a country that seems unwilling or unable to balance its books. And if our creditors start worrying that we may be unable to pay back our debts, it could drive up interest rates for everyone who borrows money - making it harder for businesses to expand and hire, or families to take out a mortgage.

The good news is, this doesn't have to be our future. This doesn't have to be the country we leave to our children. We can solve this problem. We came together as Democrats and Republicans to meet this challenge before, and we can do it again.

But that starts by being honest about what's causing our deficit. You see, most Americans tend to dislike government spending in the abstract, but they like the stuff it buys. Most of us, regardless of party affiliation, believe that we should have a strong military and a strong defense. Most Americans believe we should invest in education and medical research. Most Americans think we should protect commitments like Social Security and Medicare. And without even looking at a poll, my finely honed political skills tell me that almost no one believes they should be paying higher taxes.

Because all this spending is popular with both Republicans and Democrats alike, and because nobody wants to pay higher taxes, politicians are often eager to feed the impression that solving the problem is just a matter of eliminating waste and abuse -that tackling the deficit issue won't require tough choices. Or they suggest that we can somehow close our entire deficit by eliminating things like foreign aid, even though foreign aid makes up about 1% of our entire budget.

So here's the truth. Around two-thirds of our budget is spent on Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and national security. Programs like unemployment insurance, student loans, veterans' benefits, and tax credits for working families take up another 20%. What's left, after interest on the debt, is just 12 percent for everything else. That's 12 percent for all of our other national priorities like education and clean energy; medical research and transportation; food safety and keeping our air and water clean.

Up until now, the cuts proposed by a lot of folks in Washington have focused almost exclusively on that 12%. But cuts to that 12% alone won't solve the problem. So any serious plan to tackle our deficit will require us to put everything on the table, and take on excess spending wherever it exists in the budget. A serious plan doesn't require us to balance our budget overnight - in fact, economists think that with the economy just starting to grow again, we will need a phased-in approach - but it does require tough decisions and support from leaders in both parties. And above all, it will require us to choose a vision of the America we want to see five and ten and twenty years down the road.

One vision has been championed by Republicans in the House of Representatives and embraced by several of their party's presidential candidates. It's a plan that aims to reduce our deficit by $4 trillion over the next ten years, and one that addresses the challenge of Medicare and Medicaid in the years after that.

Those are both worthy goals for us to achieve. But the way this plan achieves those goals would lead to a fundamentally different America than the one we've known throughout most of our history.

A 70% cut to clean energy. A 25% cut in education. A 30% cut in transportation. Cuts in college Pell Grants that will grow to more than $1,000 per year. That's what they're proposing. These aren't the kind of cuts you make when you're trying to get rid of some waste or find extra savings in the budget. These aren't the kind of cuts that Republicans and Democrats on the Fiscal Commission proposed. These are the kind of cuts that tell us we can't afford the America we believe in. And they paint a vision of our future that's deeply pessimistic.

It's a vision that says if our roads crumble and our bridges collapse, we can't afford to fix them. If there are bright young Americans who have the drive and the will but not the money to go to college, we can't afford to send them. Go to China and you'll see businesses opening research labs and solar facilities. South Korean children are outpacing our kids in math and science. Brazil is investing billions in new infrastructure and can run half their cars not on high-priced gasoline, but biofuels. And yet, we are presented with a vision that says the United States of America - the greatest nation on Earth - can't afford any of this.

It's a vision that says America can't afford to keep the promise we've made to care for our seniors. It says that ten years from now, if you're a 65 year old who's eligible for Medicare, you should have to pay nearly $6,400 more than you would today. It says instead of guaranteed health care, you will get a voucher. And if that voucher isn't worth enough to buy insurance, tough luck - you're on your own. Put simply, it ends Medicare as we know it.

This is a vision that says up to 50 million Americans have to lose their health insurance in order for us to reduce the deficit. And who are those 50 million Americans? Many are someone's grandparents who wouldn't be able afford nursing home care without Medicaid. Many are poor children. Some are middle-class families who have children with autism or Down's syndrome. Some are kids with disabilities so severe that they require 24-hour care. These are the Americans we'd be telling to fend for themselves.

Worst of all, this is a vision that says even though America can't afford to invest in education or clean energy; even though we can't afford to care for seniors and poor children, we can somehow afford more than $1 trillion in new tax breaks for the wealthy. Think about it. In the last decade, the average income of the bottom 90% of all working Americans actually declined. The top 1% saw their income rise by an average of more than a quarter of a million dollars each. And that's who needs to pay less taxes? They want to give people like me a two hundred thousand dollar tax cut that's paid for by asking thirty three seniors to each pay six thousand dollars more in health costs? That's not right, and it's not going to happen as long as I'm President.

The fact is, their vision is less about reducing the deficit than it is about changing the basic social compact in America. As Ronald Reagan's own budget director said, there's nothing "serious" or "courageous" about this plan. 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. There's nothing courageous about asking for sacrifice from those who can least afford it and don't have any clout on Capitol Hill. And this is not a vision of the America I know.

The America I know is generous and compassionate; a land of opportunity and optimism. We take responsibility for ourselves and each other; for the country we want and the future we share. We are the nation that built a railroad across a continent and brought light to communities shrouded in darkness. We sent a generation to college on the GI bill and saved millions of seniors from poverty with Social Security and Medicare. We have led the world in scientific research and technological breakthroughs that have transformed millions of lives.

This is who we are. This is the America I know. We don't have to choose between a future of spiraling debt and one where we forfeit investments in our people and our country. To meet our fiscal challenge, we will need to make reforms. We will all need to make sacrifices. But we do not have to sacrifice the America we believe in. And as long as I'm President, we won't.

Today, I'm proposing a more balanced approach to achieve $4 trillion in deficit reduction over twelve years. It's an approach that borrows from the recommendations of the bipartisan Fiscal Commission I appointed last year, and builds on the roughly $1 trillion in deficit reduction I already proposed in my 2012 budget. It's an approach that puts every kind of spending on the table, but one that protects the middle-class, our promise to seniors, and our investments in the future.

The first step in our approach is to keep annual domestic spending low by building on the savings that both parties agreed to last week - a step that will save us about $750 billion over twelve years. We will make the tough cuts necessary to achieve these savings, including in programs I care about, but I will not sacrifice the core investments we need to grow and create jobs. We'll invest in medical research and clean energy technology. We'll invest in new roads and airports and broadband access. We will invest in education and job training. We will do what we need to compete and we will win the future.

The second step in our approach is to find additional savings in our defense budget. As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater responsibility than protecting our national security, and I will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America's interests around the world. But as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Admiral Mullen, has said, the greatest long-term threat to America's national security is America's debt.

Just as we must find more savings in domestic programs, we must do the same in defense. Over the last two years, Secretary Gates has courageously taken on wasteful spending, saving $400 billion in current and future spending. I believe we can do that again. We need to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but conduct a fundamental review of America's missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world. I intend to work with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on this review, and I will make specific decisions about spending after it's complete.

The third step in our approach is to further reduce health care spending in our budget. Here, the difference with the House Republican plan could not be clearer: their plan lowers the government's health care bills by asking seniors and poor families to pay them instead. Our approach lowers the government's health care bills by reducing the cost of health care itself.

Already, the reforms we passed in the health care law will reduce our deficit by $1 trillion. My approach would build on these reforms. We will reduce wasteful subsidies and erroneous payments. We will cut spending on prescription drugs by using Medicare's purchasing power to drive greater efficiency and speed generic brands of medicine onto the market. We will work with governors of both parties to demand more efficiency and accountability from Medicaid. We will change the way we pay for health care - not by procedure or the number of days spent in a hospital, but with new incentives for doctors and hospitals to prevent injuries and improve results. And we will slow the growth of Medicare costs by strengthening an independent commission of doctors, nurses, medical experts and consumers who will look at all the evidence and recommend the best ways to reduce unnecessary spending while protecting access to the services seniors need.

Now, we believe the reforms we've proposed to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid will enable us to keep these commitments to our citizens while saving us $500 billion by 2023, and an additional one trillion dollars in the decade after that. And if we're wrong, and Medicare costs rise faster than we expect, this approach will give the independent commission the authority to make additional savings by further improving Medicare.

But let me be absolutely clear: I will preserve these health care programs as a promise we make to each other in this society. I will not allow Medicare to become a voucher program that leaves seniors at the mercy of the insurance industry, with a shrinking benefit to pay for rising costs. I will not tell families with children who have disabilities that they have to fend for themselves. We will reform these programs, but we will not abandon the fundamental commitment this country has kept for generations.

That includes, by the way, our commitment to Social Security. While Social Security is not the cause of our deficit, it faces real long-term challenges in a country that is growing older. As I said in the State of the Union, both parties should work together now to strengthen Social Security for future generations. But we must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans' guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

The fourth step in our approach is to reduce spending in the tax code. In December, I agreed to extend the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans because it was the only way I could prevent a tax hike on middle-class Americans. But we cannot afford $1 trillion worth of tax cuts for every millionaire and billionaire in our society. And I refuse to renew them again.

Beyond that, the tax code is also loaded up with spending on things like itemized deductions. And while I agree with the goals of many of these deductions, like home ownership or charitable giving, we cannot ignore the fact that they provide millionaires an average tax break of $75,000 while doing nothing for the typical middle-class family that doesn't itemize.

My budget calls for limiting itemized deductions for the wealthiest 2% of Americans - a reform that would reduce the deficit by $320 billion over ten years. But to reduce the deficit, I believe we should go further. That's why I'm calling on Congress to reform our individual tax code so that it is fair and simple - so that the amount of taxes you pay isn't determined by what kind of accountant you can afford. I believe reform should protect the middle class, promote economic growth, and build on the Fiscal Commission's model of reducing tax expenditures so that there is enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficit. And as I called for in the State of the Union, we should reform our corporate tax code as well, to make our businesses and our economy more competitive.

This is my approach to reduce the deficit by $4 trillion over the next twelve years. It's an approach that achieves about $2 trillion in spending cuts across the budget. It will lower our interest payments on the debt by $1 trillion. It calls for tax reform to cut about $1 trillion in spending from the tax code. And it achieves these goals while protecting the middle class, our commitment to seniors, and our investments in the future.

In the coming years, if the recovery speeds up and our economy grows faster than our current projections, we can make even greater progress than I have pledged here. But just to hold Washington - and me - accountable and make sure that the debt burden continues to decline, my plan includes a debt failsafe. If, by 2014, our debt is not projected to fall as a share of the economy - or if Congress has failed to act - my plan will require us to come together and make up the additional savings with more spending cuts and more spending reductions in the tax code. That should be an incentive for us to act boldly now, instead of kicking our problems further down the road.

So this is our vision for America - a vision where we live within our means while still investing in our future; where everyone makes sacrifices but no one bears all the burden; where we provide a basic measure of security for our citizens and rising opportunity for our children.

Of course, there will be those who disagree with my approach. Some will argue we shouldn't even consider raising taxes, even if only on the wealthiest Americans. It's just an article of faith for them. I say that at a time when the tax burden on the wealthy is at its lowest level in half a century, the most fortunate among us can afford to pay a little more. I don't need another tax cut. Warren Buffett doesn't need another tax cut. Not if we have to pay for it by making seniors pay more for Medicare. Or by cutting kids from Head Start. Or by taking away college scholarships that I wouldn't be here without. That some of you wouldn't be here without. And I believe that most wealthy Americans would agree with me. They want to give back to the country that's done so much for them. Washington just hasn't asked them to.

Others will say that we shouldn't even talk about cutting spending until the economy is fully recovered. I'm sympathetic to this view, which is one of the reasons I supported the payroll tax cuts we passed in December. It's also why we have to use a scalpel and not a machete to reduce the deficit - so that we can keep making the investments that create jobs. But doing nothing on the deficit is just not an option. Our debt has grown so large that we could do real damage to the economy if we don't begin a process now to get our fiscal house in order.

Finally, there are those who believe we shouldn't make any reforms to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security out of a fear that any talk of change to these programs will usher in the sort of radical steps that House Republicans have proposed. I understand these fears. But I guarantee that if we don't make any changes at all, we won't be able to keep our commitments to a retiring generation that will live longer and face higher health care costs than those who came before.

Indeed, to those in my own party, I say that if we truly believe in a progressive vision of our society, we have the obligation to prove that we can afford our commitments. If we believe that government can make a difference in people's lives, we have the obligation to prove that it works - by making government smarter, leaner and more effective.

Of course, there are those who will simply say that there's no way we can come together and agree on a solution to this challenge. They'll say the politics of this city are just too broken; that the choices are just too hard; that the parties are just too far apart. And after a few years in this job, I certainly have some sympathy for this view.

But I also know that we've come together and met big challenges before. Ronald Reagan and Tip O'Neill came together to save Social Security for future generations. The first President Bush and a Democratic Congress came together to reduce the deficit. President Clinton and a Republican Congress battled each other ferociously and still found a way to balance the budget. In the last few months, both parties have come together to pass historic tax relief and spending cuts. And I know there are Republicans and Democrats in Congress who want to see a balanced approach to deficit reduction.

I believe we can and must come together again. This morning, I met with Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress to discuss the approach I laid out today. And in early May, the Vice President will begin regular meetings with leaders in both parties with the aim of reaching a final agreement on a plan to reduce the deficit by the end of June.

I don't expect the details in any final agreement to look exactly like the approach I laid out today. I'm eager to hear other ideas from all ends of the political spectrum. And though I'm sure the criticism of what I've said here today will be fierce in some quarters, and my critique of the House Republican approach has been strong, Americans deserve and will demand that we all bridge our differences, and find common ground.

This larger debate we're having, about the size and role of government, has been with us since our founding days. And during moments of great challenge and change, like the one we're living through now, the debate gets sharper and more vigorous. That's a good thing. As a country that prizes both our individual freedom and our obligations to one another, this is one of the most important debates we can have.

But no matter what we argue or where we stand, we've always held certain beliefs as Americans. We believe that in order to preserve our own freedoms and pursue our own happiness, we can't just think about ourselves. We have to think about the country that made those liberties possible. We have to think about our fellow citizens with whom we share a community. And we have to think about what's required to preserve the American Dream for future generations.

This sense of responsibility - to each other and to our country - this isn't a partisan feeling. It isn't a Democratic or Republican idea. It's patriotism.

The other day I received a letter from a man in Florida. He started off by telling me he didn't vote for me and he hasn't always agreed with me. But even though he's worried about our economy and the state of our politics, he said,

"I still believe. I believe in that great country that my grandfather told me about. I believe that somewhere lost in this quagmire of petty bickering on every news station, the 'American Dream' is still alive...

We need to use our dollars here rebuilding, refurbishing and restoring all that our ancestors struggled to create and maintain...We as a people must do this together, no matter the color of the state one comes from or the side of the aisle one might sit on."

I still believe as well. And I know that if we can come together, and uphold our responsibilities to one another and to this larger enterprise that is America, we will keep the dream of our founding alive in our time, and pass on to our children the country we believe in. Thank you, God bless you, and may God bless the United States of America."

FACT SHEET: The President's Framework for Shared Prosperity and Shared Fiscal Responsibility

FACT SHEET: The President's Framework for Shared Prosperity and Shared Fiscal Responsibility

The President believes that we need a comprehensive, pro-growth economic strategy that invests in winning the future, lays the foundation for strong private-sector job growth and ensures that shared prosperity will keep the American dream alive for generations to come. A key component of that strategy must be a commitment to fiscal responsibility and to living within our means. Today, the President is laying out a comprehensive, balanced deficit reduction framework to cut spending, bring down our debt and increase confidence in our nation’s fiscal strength, while supporting our economic recovery and ensuring we are making the investments we need to win the future.

$4 Trillion in Deficit Reduction: The President is setting a goal of reducing our deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years or less. This deficit reduction would be phased in over time to protect and strengthen our economic recovery and the recovering labor market.

Debt on a Declining Path, Backed Up By An Across the Board “Debt Failsafe” Trigger: The President’s framework would require that, by the second half of the decade, our nation’s debt is on a declining path as a share of our economy. To enforce this requirement, the President is calling on Congress to enact:

* A Debt Failsafe that will trigger across-the-board spending reductions (both in direct spending and spending through the tax code) if, by 2014, the projected ratio of debt-to-GDP is not stabilized and declining toward the end of the decade. Consistent with prior fiscal enforcement triggers put in place by Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton, the trigger should not apply to Social Security, low-income programs, or Medicare benefits.

Balance Between Spending Cuts and Tax Reform: The President’s framework would seek a balanced approach to bringing down our deficit, with three dollars of spending cuts and interest savings for every one dollar from tax reform that contributes to deficit reduction. This is consistent with the bipartisan Fiscal Commission’s approach.

Shared Sacrifice from All, Including the Most Fortunate Americans: The President believes strongly that, as we make difficult choices to live within our means, we cannot afford to make our deficit problem worse by extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Bipartisan, Bicameral Negotiations on a Legislative Framework: The President has asked Majority Leader Reid, Speaker Boehner, Minority Leader Pelosi and Minority Leader McConnell to each designate four Members from their caucuses to participate in bipartisan, bicameral negotiations led by the Vice President, beginning in early May. The goal of these negotiations is to agree on a legislative framework for comprehensive deficit reduction.

Policy Highlights. The policy highlights in the President’s framework build on the down-payment included in his FY 2012 Budget. They include:

* Non-security discretionary spending: The President is proposing to build on the savings from the FY 2011 budget agreement, while investing in key drivers of economic growth like energy innovation, education, and infrastructure. This would entail cutting non-security discretionary spending to levels consistent with the Fiscal Commission, saving $770 billion by 2023.
* Security spending: The President’s framework will go beyond the Fiscal Year 2012 Budget to achieve deeper reductions in security spending. It sets a goal of holding the growth in base security spending below inflation, while ensuring our capacity to meet our national security responsibilities, which would save $400 billion by 2023.
* Health care: The President’s framework builds on the Affordable Care Act by including new reforms aimed at further reducing the growth of health care spending – a major driver of long-term deficits. The President opposes any plan that would simply shift costs to seniors and the vulnerable by undermining Medicare and Medicaid. Building on the foundation of the historic deficit reduction achieved through the Affordable Care Act, the framework would save an additional $340 billion by 2021, $480 billion by 2023, and at least an additional $1 trillion in the subsequent decade. These savings complement the new patient safety initiative that could lower Medicare costs by another $50 billion over the next decade by providing better care. The President’s framework includes initiatives that will:
* Bend the long-term cost curve by setting a more ambitious target of holding Medicare cost growth per beneficiary to GDP per capita plus 0.5 percent beginning in 2018, through strengthening the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB).
* Make Medicaid more flexible, efficient and accountable without resorting to block granting the program, ending our partnership with States or reducing health care coverage for seniors in nursing homes, the most economically vulnerable and people with disabilities. Combined Medicaid savings of at least $100 billion over 10 years.
* Reduce Medicare’s excessive spending on prescription drugs and lower drug premiums for beneficiaries without shifting costs to seniors or privatizing Medicare. Combined Medicare savings of at least $200 billion over 10 years.
* Other mandatory spending: Outside of health care, comprehensive deficit reduction must include savings in other mandatory programs, including agricultural subsidies, the federal pension insurance system, and anti-fraud measures, while protecting and strengthening programs that serve low-income families and other vulnerable Americans. The President’s framework includes a target of $360 billion in savings from other mandatory programs by 2023.
* Tax reform: the President is calling for individual tax reform that closes loopholes and produces a system which is simpler, fairer and not rigged in favor of those who can afford lawyers and accountants to game it. The President supports the Fiscal Commission’s goal of reducing tax expenditures enough to both lower rates and lower the deficit.
* Social Security: The President does not believe that Social Security is in crisis nor is a driver of our near-term deficit problems. But, in the context of an aging population and a Social Security wage base that is declining as a share of overall earnings, Social Security faces long-term challenges that are better addressed sooner than later to ensure that the program remains for future generations the rock-solid benefit for older Americans that it has been for past generations. That is why the President supports bipartisan efforts to strengthen Social Security for the long haul. These efforts should be guided by several principles, including strengthening the program and not privatizing it, improving retirement security for the vulnerable while protecting people with disabilities and current beneficiaries, and not slashing benefits for future generations.


1. A Fiscally Responsible Economic Strategy to Invest in Competitiveness and Growth

The President believes that, if we are going to promote economic recovery, invest in our long-term competitiveness and meet our values of dignity for retirees, protection for the most vulnerable and opportunity for all Americans, a comprehensive, balanced deficit reduction framework must be part of our overall economic growth strategy.

The question is not whether we need to bring down long-term deficits and debt to build economic confidence and promote investment in the United States; instead it is how to best do so consistent with a pro-growth economic strategy. The framework the President outlined today charts a course to achieve deficit reduction and support economic growth, with a balanced approach and an enforceable backstop to ensure that we achieve our economic and fiscal goals.

2. A Deficit Reduction Goal and Enforceable Debt Failsafe

The framework the President announced today offers a balanced approach to maintaining our economic recovery while living within our means. It centers on the following goal:

Achieving $4 trillion in deficit reduction over 12 years or less. The President believes that this goal is achievable over a 12 year period, consistent with the goals of promoting economic growth that benefits the middle class and strengthening the health and economic security of our nation’s seniors, people with disabilities and most vulnerable. The Administration projects that this framework will reduce deficits as a share of our economy to about 2.5% of GDP in 2015, and put deficits on a declining path toward close to 2.0% of GDP toward the end of the decade.

Deficit reduction should be phased in over time to ensure that fiscal policy does not undermine the momentum of our economic recovery. Our economy has created 1.8 million private sector jobs over the last 13 months and the pace of job growth has accelerated in recent months. While long-term deficit reduction is a crucial component of the President’s economic strategy, this goal cannot be used as an excuse to undermine the near-term policies and investments we need to continue our economic recovery.

Deficit reduction efforts should be held accountable by a “Debt Failsafe” trigger: The President is confident that, with a robust economic recovery and bipartisan agreement on deficit reduction, we will put our debt as a share of the economy on a declining path by the second half of the decade. However we must provide a strong incentive for Congress to act on a deficit reduction framework and renew confidence that we will hit this goal. Therefore, the President is calling for:

* A debt failsafe that will ensure that our nation’s debt is on a declining path as a share of our economy. If by 2014, budget projections do not show that the debt-to-GDP ratio has stabilized and is declining in the second half of the decade, the failsafe will trigger an across the board spending reduction, including on spending through the tax code.
* The trigger will ensure that deficits as a share of the economy average no more than 2.8% of GDP in the second half of the decade.
* Consistent with prior fiscal enforcement mechanisms put in place by Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Clinton, the trigger should not apply to Social Security, low-income programs, or benefits for Medicare enrollees.
* The trigger should also include a mechanism to ensure that it does not exacerbate an economic downturn or interfere with our nation’s ability to respond to a national security emergency.

3. Discretionary Spending

Non-Security Savings Equal to the Fiscal Commission’s, While Investing In Our Future:

* The budget agreement negotiated by the President last week represented the largest one-year reduction in discretionary spending in our history, even as it invested in areas key to our long-run economic growth and competitiveness.
* We should build on this year’s savings, while ensuring that we continue to make the investments we need to win the future and not threaten the economic recovery. The President believes we can do so while generating additional deficit reduction by cutting non-security spending to levels consistent with what the Fiscal Commission recommended over the next decade.
* This would generate an additional $200 billion in savings over 10 years beyond the $400 billion in savings from the President’s Budget. Over 12 years, it will generate a total of $770 billion in deficit reduction.

Additional Discipline on Security Spending While Keeping America Safe:

* While the President will never accept cuts that compromise our ability to defend our homeland or America’s interests around the world, Secretary Gates has shown over the last two years that there is substantial waste and duplication in our security budget that we can and should eliminate—proposing savings of $400 billion in current and future defense spending.
* As part of a comprehensive deficit reduction framework, the President is calling for pushing harder to not only eliminate waste and improve efficiency and effectiveness, but conduct a fundamental review of America’s missions, capabilities, and our role in a changing world.
* The framework sets a goal of holding the growth in base security spending below inflation, while ensuring our capacity to meet our national security responsibilities, which would save $400 billion by 2023. (The President will make decisions on specific cuts after working with Secretary Gates and the Joint Chiefs on the comprehensive review.)
* Note: this deficit reduction is in addition to the savings generated from ramping-down overseas contingency operations.

4. Health Care

Medicare and Medicaid Savings of $480 Billion by 2023 and At Least an Additional $1 Trillion over the Subsequent Decade, Providing Better Care at Lower Costs:

* Building on the Affordable Care Act, the President is proposing additional reforms to Medicare and Medicaid designed to strengthen these critical programs by reducing waste, increasing accountability, promoting efficiency, and improving the quality of care, without shifting the cost of care to our seniors or people with disabilities.
* The framework will save $340 billion over ten years and $480 billion by 2023 (including the proposals already included in the President’s Budget). This framework includes the same aggregate savings that House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan proposed in his November 2010 plan with Alice Rivlin and an amount sufficient to fully pay to reform the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) physician payment formula while still reducing the deficit.
* Over the subsequent decade, the President’s proposal will save well over $1 trillion by further bending the cost curve, doubling the savings from the Affordable Care Act.
* The President’s framework offers a stark contrast with the House Republican plan that would increase seniors’ health costs by $6,400 annually starting in 2022, raise health insurance premiums for middle-class Americans and small businesses, cut Federal Medicaid spending by one-third by the end of the decade, and increase the number of uninsured by 50 million.

The President’s framework proposes specific reforms to strengthen Medicare and Medicaid over the long term, including:

* Addressing the long-term drivers of Medicare cost growth: The President’s framework would strengthen the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) created by the Affordable Care Act. The IPAB has been highlighted by economists and health policy experts as a critical contributor to Medicare’s solvency and sound operations. Under the Affordable Care Act, IPAB analyzes the drivers of excessive and unnecessary Medicare cost growth. When Medicare growth per beneficiary exceeds growth in nominal GDP per capita plus 1 percent, IPAB recommends to Congress policies to reduce the rate of growth to meet that target, while not harming beneficiaries’ access to needed services. Congress must consider IPAB’s recommendations or, if it disagrees, enact policies that achieve equivalent savings. If neither acts, then the Secretary of Health and Human Services would have to develop and implement a proposal to achieve the savings target.
* The President’s framework will strengthen IPAB to act as a backstop to the other Medicare reforms by ensuring that Medicare spending growth does not outpace our ability to pay for it over the long run, while improving the program and keeping Medicare beneficiaries’ premium growth under control. Specifically, it would:
* Set a new target of Medicare growth per beneficiary growing with GDP per capita plus 0.5 percent. This is consistent both with the reductions in projected Medicare spending since the Affordable Care Act was passed and the additional reforms the President is proposing.
* Give IPAB additional tools to improve the quality of care while reducing costs, including allowing it to promote value-based benefit designs that promote proven services like prevention without shifting costs to seniors.
* Give IPAB additional enforcement mechanisms such as an automatic sequester as a backstop for IPAB, Congress, and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.
* Reforming the Federal-State partnerships to strengthen Medicaid and promote simplicity, efficiency, and accountability: Under current law, States face a patchwork of different Federal payment contributions for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The President’s framework would replace the current complicated Federal matching formulas with a single matching rate for all program spending that rewards States for efficiency and automatically increases if a recession forces enrollment and State costs to rise.
* In addition, the President has called on the National Governors Association (NGA) to make recommendations for ways to reform and strengthen Medicaid, and the framework will consider the ideas that its Task Force produces. The President also supports reform of Medicaid to incentivize more efficient, higher quality, care for high-cost beneficiaries, including those who are eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare. These nine million beneficiaries comprise 15 percent of Medicaid enrollment but consume nearly 40 percent of total Medicaid spending.
* Improving patient safety: Together with employers, States, hospitals, physicians and nurses, the Administration has launched a new public-private partnership called Partnership for Patients that will help improve the quality, safety and affordability of health care for all Americans. The two goals of this new Partnership are: preventing patients from getting injured or sicker while they are in the hospital and helping patients heal without complication. Achieving the initiative’s goal would mean more than 1.6 million patients will recover from illness without a preventable complication, reducing costs by up to $50 billion in Medicare and billions more in Medicaid over the next 10 years.
* Cutting unnecessary prescription drug spending: The framework would limit excessive payments for prescription drugs by leveraging Medicare’s purchasing power – similar to what was called for by the bipartisan Fiscal Commission. It would speed up the availability of generic biologics, and prohibit brand-name companies from entering into “pay for delay” agreements with generic companies. And, it would implement Medicaid management of high prescribers and users of prescription drugs.
* Reducing abuse and increasing accountability in Medicaid and Medicare: The framework would clamp down on States’ use of provider taxes to lower their own spending while not providing additional health services through Medicaid; recover erroneous payments from Medicare Advantage; establish upper limits on Medicaid payments for durable medical equipment; and take other actions to improve program integrity.

A major contrast with the House Republican approach. The President’s framework rejects plans that would end Medicare as we know it or transform Medicaid into a dramatically underfunded block grant, putting at serious risk not only seniors but also the most vulnerable children and people with disabilities. Some of the major problems with the House Republican approach include:

* The House Republican plan does nothing to reduce health costs. Instead it actually increases costs by doing nothing to reform the way health care is delivered in addition to putting a larger fraction of the burden on beneficiaries and States.
* In the first year the Republican plan goes into effect, a typical 65-year-old who becomes eligible for Medicare would pay an extra $6,400 for health care, more than doubling what he or she would pay if the plan were not adopted.
* States would get one-third less for Medicaid by 2021, potentially leaving 15 million people without coverage, including seniors in nursing homes, people with disabilities, children and pregnant women.
* The House Republican plan would no longer guarantee the same level of benefits and choices that seniors have today in Medicare, because the proposal allows private health plans to determine benefits, raise cost sharing, and limit choice of doctors and hospitals.

5. Other Mandatory Spending

Outside of health care, comprehensive deficit reduction must include savings in other mandatory programs.

The President’s Budget includes measures to reform agricultural subsidies, shore up the federal pension insurance system, restore solvency to the federal unemployment insurance trust fund, and enact anti-fraud measures.

Building on these efforts, the President’s framework includes a target of $360 billion in savings from other mandatory programs by 2023.

The Fiscal Commission and other bipartisan efforts have put forward additional proposals that should be considered as part of a comprehensive deficit reduction effort to meet this target.

Reforms to mandatory programs should protect and strengthen the safety net for low-income families and other vulnerable Americans.

6. Tax Reform

The President is calling on Congress to undertake comprehensive tax reform that produces a system which is fairer, has fewer loopholes, less complexity, and is not rigged in favor of those who can afford lawyers and accountants to game it.

He believes we cannot afford to make our deficit problem worse by extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

He also supports efforts to build on the Fiscal Commission’s goal of reducing tax expenditures so that there is enough savings to both lower rates and lower the deficit. Reform should be designed to ask more of those who can afford it while protecting the middle class and promoting economic growth.

In addition, as he explained in the State of the Union, the President is continuing his effort to reform our outdated corporate tax code to enhance our economic competitiveness and encourage investment in the United States. By eliminating loopholes, reducing distortions and leveling the playing field in our corporate tax code, we can use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years without adding to the deficit.

7. Social Security

The President does not believe that Social Security is a driver of our near-term deficit problems or is currently in crisis. But he supports bipartisan efforts to strengthen Social Security for the long haul, because its long-term challenges are better addressed sooner than later to ensure that it remains the rock-solid benefit for older Americans that it has been for past generations. The President in the State of the Union laid out his principles for Social Security reform which he believes should form the basis for bipartisan negotiations that could proceed in parallel to deficit negotiations:

* Strengthen retirement security for the low-income and vulnerable; maintain robust disability and survivors’ benefits.
* No privatization or weakening of the Social Security system; reform must strengthen Social Security and restore long-term solvency.
* No current beneficiary should see the basic benefit reduced; nor will we accept an approach that slashes benefits for future generations.

From "Sitting In Limbo" to "Many Rivers to Cross": Dems Save CPB and NPR In Real Cliff Hanger

Shortly following the near shutdown of the Federal Government last week, the entertainment industry weekly Variety reported that:

"The eleventh-hour budget deal that averted a government shutdown spares the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and National Public Radio, as it was among the policy riders dropped in the final deal, according to the Daily Caller. House Republicans had voted to eliminate funding for CPB and restrict government money for NPR, but they were given little chance of making it into the final legislation. The deal that was reached on Friday is to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year, but Democrats fought against a number of "add ons" that restricted funding for Planned Parenthood and for new EPA regulations."

So when I awoke from my Saturday Night Live snooze last weekend just in time to change my channel back to PBS for tpt's broadcast of Austin City Limits, I got down on my knees to thank the Democrats for what ensued. As any fan of American music knows, Austin City Limits has been the oasis of taste in the desert of music mediocrity that is popular culture in America and the world today.

My first experience with Austin City Limits dates back to the mid-70's while on the annual summer vacation road trip with my parents. We were staying in a cheap motor lodge somewhere in the southwest and as best as I can recollect, my father must have sprung for a separate room for my brother and I. While flipping through the handful of broadcast stations I came upon a mild looking middle-aged man with a natural wood finished Fender who proceeded to put on one of the greatest exhibitions of guitar playing I had ever witnessed. The man was the legendary Roy Buchanan and it was one of the earliest episodes of a little known PBS music show originating out of its Austin Texas affiliate. The rest as they say is history.

Over the years Austin City Limits has brought some of the greatest music performers in the world into the living rooms of America. Besides the aforementioned performance by Roy Buchanan, other memorable shows that immediately come to mind include Delbert McClinton, Alejandro Escovedo, Van Morrison as well as countless others. However, I must say that ranking right up there in my mind has to be Jimmy Cliff and his incredible band's performance which kicked off the show's 2010 season. Since the passing of Bob Marley some 34 years ago, no other Reggae singer songwriter has come close to the greatness that was Bob...with the possible exception of Mr. Cliff. Now I do not profess to be some great student of Reggae music, some white wannabe poser in dreadlocks. Hell I'm a bald, middle aged white guy with two left feet. I'm also somewhat of a music snob in that I only like one of two kinds of music, as Louis Armstrong would say (and I paraphrase), the "good" kind. And it don't get any better than Jimmy Cliff's Austin City Limits performance.

Very much still on top of his game and backed by one of the crack bands in all of Reggae, Cliff came bounding out on stage dressed in what looked like Cincinnati Bengal's wide mouth receiver, Ocho Cinco's leisure suit. Opening with "Wonderful World, Beautiful People", Cliff quickly got down to business strapping on a guitar for the only time of the night and launching into the first of the shows many highlights, a stunningly beautiful rendition of one of his greatest songs, "Sitting In Limbo". From there it was non-stop pulsating rhythms. "Rebel,Rebel, Rebel", the call and response of "One More" and a great rework of the war protest anthem "Vietnam", now "Afghanistan".

Next came the title track to the Citizen Kane of all Reggae movies, "The Harder They Come" which unfortunately brings to mind my only slight criticism of the show, which was his sharing the stage for this number with one barefoot wannabe, Michael Franti, whoever the hell he is. My only comment is I can see why he can't afford shoes.

Other highlights included his signature piece, "Many Rivers to Cross" (which gave me goose bumps), a cover of the Johnny Nash hit "I Can See Clearly Now" and the show ending drum circle of "Bongo Man" complete with sample of "Rivers of Babylon" by the Melodians.

All in all this was music history and we have only Austin City Limits, PBS and the Democrats to thank for it, which is reason enough to vote the Republicans and Tea Baggers the hell out next election. Jah Man!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Wis. Supreme Court Seat In Doubt as Investigations Widen

Following the unofficial tally with 100% of the precincts reporting in last week's Wisconsin Supreme Court race, it looked as though Assistant State Attorney General Joanne Kloppenburg had squeaked through a victory by the narrowest of margins, 204 votes. But just when it looked like sanity had returned to the realm of Farve, Waukeshah County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus announced she had forgot to save the vote for the City of Brookfield, a Prosser stronghold, to her personal laptop computer.

Bringing back memories of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who also was active in the 2000 Bush campaign, and boyhood stories of the dog ate my homework, investigative bodies from the Wisonsin State Accountability Office to the U.S. Justice Department have been asked to investigate the astonishing reversal in election results.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Recall Wis. Gov. Walker Movement Picks Up Steam Amidst New Allegations of Corruption

On Tuesday the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Governor Walker had appointed the son of one of his biggest campaign contributors to a high-paid executive administration post that he was wholly unqualified for. In a move reminiscent of the ill fated Bush Administration appointment of the incompetent Michael "Way to go Brownie" Brown to head FEMA, Republican cronyism is alive and well in the Cheese State.

In his article on April 5, 2011 Journal Sentinel Political columnist Daniel Bice reported:

"Brian Deschane - the 27-year-old son of a prominent lobbyist - was demoted on Tuesday following a public uproar over his appointment to a cushy job earning $81,500 per year working in Gov. Scott Walker's administration. But check out the two candidates Deschane beat out to get the position as head of environmental and regulatory affairs in the state Department of Commerce: The first, Oscar Herrera, is a former state cabinet secretary under Republican Gov. Scott McCallum with a doctoral degree and eight years' experience overseeing the cleanup of petroleum-contaminated sites. The second, Bernice Mattsson, is a professional engineer who served since 2003 in the post to which Deschane was appointed. By contrast, Deschane has no college degree, little management experience and a couple of drunken-driving convictions. His father represents a trade group that gave more than $121,000 to Walker and his running mate. Herrera and Mattsson didn't get far in the process. "Neither candidate was interviewed," said agency spokesman Tony Hozeny.

On Tuesday, Walker abruptly reversed course and bumped Deschane from his appointed position overseeing dozens of employees at the Department of Commerce. The move comes one day after the Journal Sentinel disclosed details of the appointment. Deschane is the son of Jerry Deschane, a longtime lobbyist for the Wisconsin Builders Association, which gave $121,652 via its political action committee and conduit to Walker and his running mate, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch."

Well, well. Right-wing hypocrisy apparently knows no bound. The Governor who would begrudge decent hard working public employees their hard earned benefits and the right to collectively bargain thinks it is okay to hand out high-paying, key executive administration positions as political patronage.

Wisconsinites your duty is clear: Impeach or Recall Walker as soon as legally possible.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Cheeseheads Have Spoken: Labor YES; Walker Hell NO!

With 100% of the vote reported, Assistant State Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg has won an Associate Justice seat on the Wisconsin Supreme Court defeating misogynist Neanderthal and current Justice David Prosser. Prosser, a former Republican lawmaker and right-wing activist is perhaps best known for referring to his own Chief Justice, a woman, as a “Bitch”. Well Mr. Prosser, aka "the Human Tort", the Bitch Is Back, but you ain’t.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Wisconsin Supreme Court Election Today is First Referendum on Walker and Anti-Labor Movement

Today will be the first test of where the populist sentiment lies in the State of Wisconsin: with the progressives and the labor movement or will the cheesehead middle and working class be so stupid as to vote against their own economic interests. At stake is a seat on the Wisconsin State Supreme court currently held by Justice David Prosser, a Neanderthal Walkerite who once called his own Chief Justice a “bitch”. Now there’s judicial temperament. Where are all the bible banging, family values types objecting to the candidacy of this misogynist cretin? Nowhere to be found. The economic interests of the wealthy elite apparently trumps decency and middle class values every time. Come on Cheeseheads! Pull your collective heads out of your Styrofoam yellow wedges and do the right thing: Vote for Assistant Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg for Associate Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court and send a message to the country: It’s Not Tea, It’s GOP” and we’re not gonna take it!!