Archive for March, 2011

Erskine Bowles sat next to me on the plane today

Posted on March 7, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Though his role as the former White House Chief of Staff was interesting, I was much more intrigued by his work on the Debt Commission. Contrary to what most believe, he thinks that the Senate will, in fact, take up the Debt Commission’s recommendations. He is testifying before Congress several times and revealed that Senators Warner and Chambliss will soon drop legislation that will alleviate debt issues.

It’s not a “party issue” he said. “Right now we are still the best horse in the glue factory but we got to fix things so young people like you, (thanks Erskine, you are mischievous!), are not saddled with debt.” We all know that extraordinary inflation is coming.

Bowles thought back on the days when he locked himself in a room with Newt Gingrich to hammer out the Balanced Budget Act of 1997. That’s what we need. Just lock up in a room and get it done!! Cut the fat!!

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Is Political Polarization Leading to a Failure of Governance in America?

Posted on March 7, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Americans are by and large moderates, a fact obscured by the political debate conducted in the halls of Congress and on talk radio where the attention goes to he who shouts the loudest and the longest.

But according to National Journal’s annual vote ratings, the divide between conservative and liberal voting in Congress has rarely been sharper. The National Journal tally reveals that just 10 House members had voting records that overlapped with the opposing party last year and eight of them lost their seats in November. The Senate, meanwhile, lacked even one true moderate.

This is counter-intuitive when we remember that a plurality of Americans considers itself moderate. In exit polls during recent presidential elections, on average, 47 percent of voters self-identify as moderate, 33 percent conservative and 20 percent liberal.

And every poll in recent memory has shown voters want the two parties to work together to solve our shared problems and to dispense with the politics of odium and mistrust.

Politicians pay lip service to these desires at election time, but when they return to Washington it is clear they really don’t get it. In the landscape of political discourse all Democrats are liberal taxers and spenders and all Republicans want to do is slash government programs, cut taxes for business and evict illegal immigrants.

Obviously, those stereotypes are false. We believe centrist politics are good politics and that the disaffected middle could prove a rich vein of electoral goodness for politicians who tap into it. We are not alone in this belief.

In a report called “The Still-Vital Center: Moderates, Democrats, and the Renewal of American Politics,” Brookings Institution Senior Fellow William A. Galston, and Elaine C. Kamarck, of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, argue that political polarization has led to a failure of governance in America.

They say Democrats are best positioned to broaden their ranks by embracing moderates: “We argue that this crisis of governance and the difficulty Democrats have had in sustaining a governing majority have the same root—namely, the failure to give appropriate weight to political moderates in our electoral and policy processes. But these problems also have the same cure—adopting the kinds of structural changes that will amplify moderates’ voices,” the scholars write.

Still, every once in a while a glimmer of moderation bubbles to the top, like an effort being spear-headed by Sen. Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat who is probably the closest thing the upper chamber has to a moderate, to do something about the federal budget deficit. Warner has assembled a gang of six—three Democrats, three Republicans—who are working on legislations that would force the federal government to meet deficit reduction goals.

And while the benefit of appealing to the center appears lost on members of Congress, President Obama improved his political position when he moved to the center on a deal to maintain the Bush tax cuts. This is reminiscent of the shift to the center that helped fuel President Clinton’s reelection in 1996.

So is the middle history? We’d like to think not. We’d like to think the majority of Americans who are political moderates will not go unrepresented in Washington while extremists on the left and the right dominate the political landscape.



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Why are Public Sector Unions Fighting for Their Lives?

Posted on March 7, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

State lawmakers across the nation, particularly those lead by Republican governors, are going after the public sector unions with a vengeance all in the name of budget balancing.

Not only are state officials seeking financial concessions and asking public labor unions to contribute more toward the cost of health care coverage and pensions, but in Wisconsin and Ohio, lawmakers are seeking to take away public worker’s collective bargaining rights.

Wisconsin’s GOP Gov. Scott Walker, who says the unions are the “haves” and everyone else are the “have-nots,” claims that severe restrictions need to be placed on public unions in order to close the state’s $3.6 billion budget gap.

The Ohio senate, meanwhile, recently passed a bill dramatically limiting the collective bargaining rights of more than 350,000 teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public service employees.

Outraged union members have descended by the thousands on state capitols to defend worker rights and protest what they see as unabashed “union-busting” tactics.

Exactly how public sector unions came to be in this precarious position is open to debate. What is clear is that somewhere along the way public labor unions allowed their message to be hijacked. Firefighters, public university employees and teachers made the fatal mistake of letting someone else tell their stories.

What else explains the demonization of public school teachers, a group traditionally held in high-esteem?

It wasn’t that long ago those teachers were seen as unselfish and dedicated professionals. Teachers were once on the same pedestal as Mom and apple pie. No more.

According to a new Rasmussen Reports poll a plurality of Americans think it’s a bad thing that most teachers are unionized. Forty-six percent (46%) say it’s a bad thing that most teachers belong to public employee unions. While thirty-seven percent (37%) believe that it’s a good thing that teachers are union members. Seventeen percent (17%) aren’t sure.

Another nationwide poll indicates that 47 percent (47%) of voters side with Wisconsin GOP Gov. Walker in his battle with teachers and the state’s other public sector unions and want him to limit union rights. While forty-two percent (42%) of voters support the teachers and public employees.

Those opposed to teacher unions have done a good job of casting public school teachers in the role of obstructionists standing in the way of meaningful education reform. A Wall Street Journal editorial stated the “teacher unions have lost the media” and noted that even “liberal-leaning” newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post have written a number unflattering stories about teachers placing their union demands above the needs of students.

Teachers and public service unions have allowed themselves to be painted by their opponents as representatives of greedy, out of touch special interests.

At Turner GPA we make sure our clients are always positioned in the best possible light. We understand that when you fail to make your own case someone else will tell your story and that’s never a good thing.

Still, the story isn’t over in this showdown between unions and state lawmakers. As a matter of fact, there are some in the labor movement who believe the all out war on unionized government workers and teachers might very well be a blessing in disguise. The massive protests by union members in places like Ohio and Wisconsin are seen as evidence of a real resurgence of the nation’s unions.

“The challenge for us is to take this moment and turn it into a movement,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers in a recent New York Times story.



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