Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Great Idea...

I'm struggling with whether or not I should use the word "visionary" when discussing this new proposal.

Can something really be visionary if it is merely taking an idea from one place and extending it to a wider audience? On the other hand, if no one has suggested it or thought of implementing it, isn't that the very meaning of being visionary...seeing something that others don't yet - but soon will. Creative foresight to imagine something that isn't --- becoming?

Whatever you want to call it - this is a great idea: Clinton's 401K Proposal

[Hillary] Clinton laid out a proposal to provide a universal 401(k) plan for everyone, at a speech Tuesday in Webster City, Iowa.

She said the savings rate today is lower than it was in 1929, more than 75 million workers do not have employer-sponsored pensions to save for retirement and many people who do have retirement plans are not saving enough.

Under her "American Retirement Accounts" plan, everyone would have access to a portable 401(k) and the government would offer matching tax cuts of up to $500 to $1,000 to help middle class and working families save. The campaign estimates it would cost $20 billion to $25 billion a year to provide the matching tax cuts and said she would pay for it by freezing the estate tax at 2009 levels. "These accounts will take the best of the 401(k) plans and make them available to every working family," Clinton [said]. ...

Clinton said that like her health care plan, no one would be forced to set up these accounts and that people who like their current retirement accounts could keep them. She said the current government was subsidizing those who need it least, using about half of the nearly $200 billion spent yearly to encourage retirement savings to help the top 10% of earners and spending only 10% of that money to help the bottom 60% of earners.

Her plan would provide a matching refundable tax credit for 100% of the first $1,000 in savings for every married couple making up to $60,000 and would provide a 50% match on the first $1,000 of savings for couples making between $60,000 and $100,000 a year. The accounts would allow individuals to contribute up to $5,000 per year on a tax-deferred basis.

The credits would be available to all Americans in existing 401(k) type accounts as well as people who choose the accounts she proposes.

The plan would give new tax credits to small businesses to encourage them to provide retirement plans for employees. It focuses on creating competition among private firms that would drive more of them to provide marketable, secure plans, but that there would be an option of opening an American Retirement Account through "a publicly managed clearinghouse similar to the Thrift Savings Plan which Members of Congress can currently utilize". Those plans would be held and managed by private firms. ...

The accounts would allow penalty-free withdrawals for major investments like buying a home and paying for higher education or to help manage periods of unemployment.

Now there is a solid, enterprising, free market proposal that helps people, details how it will be paid for, and makes sense for millions of Americans.

I know that there is a large portion of the public that feels bitterness and distaste for Hillary...but it is not because of where she stands on the issues, or what she proposes, or how she intends to accomplish her goals for America. Instead, it is because of a charicature of her that has taken hold.

This is a brilliant idea. One that will likely soon be championed by politicians on both sides of the aisle. One that, hopefully, will soon be carried into fruition.

Hillary continues to propose rational, thoughtful, and achievable ideas about how we can improve our America. The more she does this, the less polarizing she becomes, and the less people accept the charicature. That's a pretty good idea too.

You don't introduce a new product in August...

What an absolute disaster the Bush administration is. After the big "report" on all the improvement that is going on in Iraq we were sold a month ago, and how this is buying time for reconcilliation - now we get this: Top Iraqis pull back from key U.S. goal

For much of this year, the U.S. military strategy in Iraq has sought to reduce violence so that politicians could bring about national reconciliation, but several top Iraqi leaders say they have lost faith in this broad goal.

Iraqi leaders argue that sectarian animosity is entrenched in the structure of their government. Instead of reconciliation, they now stress alternative and perhaps more attainable goals: streamlining the government bureaucracy, placing experienced technocrats in positions of authority and improving the dismal record of providing basic services.

"I don't think there is something called reconciliation, and there will be no reconciliation as such," said Deputy Prime Minister Barham Salih, a Kurd. "To me, it is a very inaccurate term. This is a struggle about power."

This is what Bush and the Republicans have sent more of our soldiers over to Iraq in the "surge" for - the "struggle about power." One in which the US is caught in the cross-fire.

The so-called "surge" - which really did nothing except push US troop levels in Iraq back to 2005 numbers - is not and will not be a failure because our military has been in any way ineffective. On the contrary, the military side of operation is generally successful - as is almost any US military operation, because we have the absolute best military in the world. Rather, this POLICY has been an unmitigated disaster because Bush and his advisors are fundamentally wrong on Iraq. We won the war - and we should have come home. Instead, he is attempting to advance American Empire around the world - and that foreign policy choice is a disasterous failure.

Iraq is a calamity. It has been an exercise in historically poor judgment. And it is telling that we are not learning from our failures. Look at this quote from the article:
"I, as deputy prime minister responsible for the portfolio of security and services, until now, have never been consulted on any security operation taking place in Iraq," said Salam Z. al-Zobaee, Iraq's second-highest Sunni official. "The Sunnis, even if they've been participating in the government, are still marginalized in decision-making." ...

Th[e] imperfect balance of power, deemed the "national unity government," entrenches these sectarian divisions and prioritizes a politician's ethnic or sect background above experience or ability, Iraqi officials say. The system makes selecting Iraqi ambassadors or cabinet ministers an exercise in horse-trading subject to bitter disputes.

For some reason, our President is asking the US military to arbitrate this conflict. It is not in the interest of our nation as we have existed for over 200 years. It is only in the interest of American Empire. Without political reconcilliation, the President's "surge" will be just as much a folly as the President's occupation of Iraq. This Administration simply does not learn from its mistakes - to all of our detriment.

Monday, October 08, 2007


There have been some good opinion colums the past couple of days from the NYTimes that I thought were notable:

8-Oct: Same Old Party

There have been a number of articles recently that portray President Bush as someone who strayed from the path of true conservatism. Republicans, these articles say, need to return to their roots.

Well, I don’t know what true conservatism is, but while doing research for my forthcoming book I spent a lot of time studying the history of the American political movement that calls itself conservatism — and Mr. Bush hasn’t strayed from the path at all. On the contrary, he’s the very model of a modern movement conservative.
Now, as they survey the wreckage of their cause, conservatives may ask themselves: “Well, how did we get here?” They may tell themselves: “This is not my beautiful Right.” They may ask themselves: “My God, what have we done?”

But their movement is the same as it ever was. And Mr. Bush is movement conservatism’s true, loyal heir.

7-Oct: Why Democracy?
[D]emocracy is the only form of government that, at least theoretically, contemplates its own demise with equanimity. Democratic elections do not guarantee that the victors will be democratically inclined, and it is always possible that those who gain control of the legislative process will pass laws that erode or even repeal the rights – of property, free expression and free movement – that distinguish democracies from theocracies and monarchies. (Some would say that this is exactly what has been happening in the past six years.) Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes captured the fragility of a form of government that can alter itself beyond the point of recognition when he said that if his fellow citizens want to go to hell in a handbasket, it was his job to help them, even if he deplored the consequences. Democracy, then, can be said to be its own biggest threat.

Terrorism presents a parallel threat from the outside. The danger is not so much that terrorists will defeat democracies by force as it is that, in resisting terrorists, democracies will forgo the procedural safeguards (against warrantless detention, censorship and secret surveillance) that make a democracy what it is. (Again, some would say that is already happening today.) If terrorists can maneuver democracies into employing tactics indistinguishable from theirs, it could be argued that they have won no matter what the outcome on the battlefield.

7-Oct: Charge It to My Kids
Every so often a quote comes out of the Bush administration that leaves you asking: Am I crazy or are they? I had one of those moments last week when Dana Perino, the White House press secretary, was asked about a proposal by some Congressional Democrats to levy a surtax to pay for the Iraq war, and she responded, “We’ve always known that Democrats seem to revert to type, and they are willing to raise taxes on just about anything.”

Yes, those silly Democrats. They’ll raise taxes for anything, even — get this — to pay for a war!
Previous American generations connected with our troops by making sacrifices at home — we’ve never passed on the entire cost of a war to the next generation, said Robert Hormats, vice chairman of Goldman Sachs International, who has written a history — “The Price of Liberty” — about how America has paid for its wars since 1776.

“In every major war we have fought in the 19th and 20th centuries,” said Mr. Hormats, “Americans have been asked to pay higher taxes — and nonessential programs have been cut — to support the military effort. Yet during this Iraq war, taxes have been lowered and domestic spending has climbed. In contrast to World War I, World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam, for most Americans this conflict has entailed no economic sacrifice. The only people really sacrificing for this war are the troops and their families.”

In his celebrated Farewell Address, Mr. Hormats noted, George Washington warned against “ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burdens we ourselves ought to bear.”